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Spanish Airliner Hijacked, Lands Safely in Miami

July 26, 1996

MIAMI (AP) _ A man who claimed he had a bomb hijacked a Spanish jetliner bound for Havana today and diverted it to Miami, where he surrendered peacefully, authorities said.

Iberia Airlines Flight 6621 landed safely at 3 p.m. EDT. After the plane taxied to an open area in the middle of Miami International Airport, passengers and crew were loaded onto buses and taken away.

The hijacker was taken into custody by federal authorities, said Iberia General Manager Salvador Humbert in Miami.

The independent Europa Press news agency in Madrid reported that the hijacker was a Cuban, but the Spanish government’s news agency said he was Lebanese.

The man ``indicated he had an explosive device and he told an air stewardess that he wanted to go to Miami,″ Metro-Dade police Detective Ed Munn said.

The plane carried 217 passengers and a crew of 14, said FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen in Atlanta.

About 30 minutes after the plane landed, dozens of people could be seen calmly exiting the plane, TV news pictures showed.

The incident coincided with a national holiday today in Cuba commemorating the 1953 start of the Communist revolution. President Fidel Castro was expected to use the occasion for a speech tonight heralding signs of a long-awaited economic recovery.

In Washington, FBI spokesman Bill Carter agents in Miami would arrest the hijacker on a federal charge of air piracy. The felony charges carries a penalty of at least 20 years in prison.

On Thursday, President Clinton announced tighter security measures at U.S. airports in the wake of the July 17 crash of TWA Flight 800 in New York.

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