- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2009

KINGSTON, JAMAICA (AP) - A gunman described as “mentally challenged” hijacked a Canadian jet on the tarmac near the resort city of Montego Bay and was holding the flight crew hostage, officials said Monday.

The “mentally challenged youngster” boarded the plane in Montego Bay and demanded to be flown to Cuba, Jamaican Information Minister Daryl Vaz told CNN. Nobody had been injured, officials said.

There were 182 passengers and crew aboard the Boeing 737, but all the passengers were released unharmed, according to a statement from CanJet Airlines.

The gunman and the crew of CanJet Flight 918 from Halifax, Nova Scotia, were still on board the plane early Monday, the airline said in a statement published early Monday on its Web site. Vaz said two crew members were released and five others were still on the plane.

The gunman’s father was assisting with negotiations, Vaz said. Prime Minister Bruce Golding was traveling to Montego Bay in response to the emergency, Radio Jamaica reported.

Vaz said the gunman is Jamaican and about 20 years old. He did not provide details of the man’s mental condition.

The situation began around 10 p.m. Sunday, according to Elizabeth Scotton, a spokeswoman for Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport.

CanJet said Flight 918 from Halifax “made a scheduled landing in Montego Bay when an armed man boarded the aircraft.”

The airline said “a full security operation is under way” and it is cooperating with authorities in this Caribbean island. “Our understanding is that no harm has come to anyone remaining on board and … there has been no damage to the aircraft,” the airline’s statement said.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who was in Jamaica for a one-day visit, was awakened with the news early Monday and was monitoring developments, his office told The Canadian Press.

Hotel arrangements were being made for the passengers, Vaz said.

The charter airline is owned by Halifax-based IMP Group Ltd., according to CanJet’s Web site. Flight 918 was being operated for Transat Tours Canada, the airline said.

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