US to Review Security for its Diplomats after Failed Yemeni Hijack

Published January 24th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

The United States said Tuesday it would review security procedures followed by its diplomats in Yemen, following the failed hijacking of a plane there carrying its ambassador to Sanaa, reported AFP. 

"We're looking at the security questions involved in the incident and whatever implications there might be on things that we need to do differently for security," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher was quoted by the agency as saying. 

Boucher made his comments following the hijacking attempt earlier Tuesday that Yemeni officials said was an attempt to abduct ambassador Barbara Bodine and take her to Iraq, according to the agency. 

The hijacking failed after the plane's quick-thinking crew overpowered the assailant after convincing him that they needed to stop in Djibouti for refueling and Boucher lavished praise on the pilot and co-pilot of the Yemenia airlines Boeing 727. 

"The crew acted very, very well, very professionally and competently," he said.  

"The way they handled the situation was the most important factor in its peaceful resolution." 

The hijack bid was thwarted by the plane's female pilot, Rosana Mustafa Abdul Khaldeq, who struggled with the hijacker while her co-pilot, named only as Anis, managed to tie him up after touching down, airline sources told the agency. 

Security sources in Djibouti said the hijacker had threatened to blow up the plane, on a domestic flight in Yemen, unless it was flown to Iraq, said the BBC radio. 

But Khaldeq convinced the hijacker to allow a refueling detour to Djibouti, and upon landing there, she activated all the aircraft's emergency slides, allowing all passengers, Bodine included, to disembark safely. 

Boucher, who also praised the cooperation of Yemeni and Djibouti officials in the incident, declined to comment on the motives of the hijacker. 

"It appears that there was a single hijacker, that he was apparently unaware ... that there were American officials on the airplane, much less the American ambassador," he said. 

Bodine, who is normally accompanied by a team of armed bodyguards, has been at the forefront of investigations into the October 12 blast on the Cole warship in the southern Yemeni port of Aden that left 17 US sailors dead. 

Boucher said there had not been any US security on the plane that carried four US diplomats: Bodine and the embassy's charge d'affaires, military attaché and political officer. 

Bodine, the other US diplomats and Yemen's ambassador to Washington, Abdel Wahab al-Hajri, were travelling from Sanaa to attend a meeting with President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is touring the country ahead of municipal elections on February 20, said the radio report. 

In addition, they were to meet the US Central Command commander, General Tommy Franks, who is on a trip through the region -- 



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