MEXICO CITY - A Bolivian religious fanatic briefly hijacked a jetliner from the beach resort of Cancun as it landed in Mexico City on Wednesday, police said. All passengers and the crew were released unharmed.
The Bible-carrying hijacker used a juice can he said was a bomb to hold the 103 passengers and crew on the tarmac for more than an hour. Masked police stormed the aircraft with their guns drawn and escorted several handcuffed men away without firing a shot. Police later said there was only one hijacker.
Jose Flores, 44, told investigators he hijacked Aeromexico Flight 576 after a divine revelation, according to Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna. Flores said Wednesday's date - 9-9-09 - is the satanic number 666 turned upside down.
Flores, speaking to reporters after he was detained, said he took control of the aircraft with "a juice can with some little lights I attached."
"Christ is coming soon," he added, smiling.
As the plane was landing, Flores stood up and showed his contraption to a flight attendant, saying he and three others were hijacking the plane, Garcia Luna said. Flores later told police his three companions were "the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost."
He ordered the pilot to circle over Mexico City seven times and asked to speak with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, saying he wanted to warn him of an impending earthquake, Garcia Luna said.
Garcia Luna said Flores is a drug addict who was convicted of armed robbery in Bolivia, and has lived in Mexico for 17 years. Flores described himself as a pastor in southern Oaxaca state who had gone to Cancun to preach.
He is also a Christian music singer who in videos posted on YouTube sings of leaving drugs and finding God.
"I was in jail, I was a despicable drug addict, but Christ freed me a few years ago," Flores sings along with recorded norteno music to a crowded stadium.
In other videos, Flores, who goes by the stage name Josmar, is seen playing with nunchackus and shooting a coin he tosses in the air.
At the Uncionmusic Web site, a Christian music distributor based in Oakland, California, that sells Flores' music on the Internet, he is described as "an international evangelist with a shocking testimony on how God rescued him after his family sent him from Bolivia to Mexico City on a one-way ticket ... because of his addiction to cocaine and alcohol."
Saul Bueno, of Uncionmusic, said that he doesn't personally know Flores and that his music has sold poorly since they began offering his CDs two years ago.
"As a Christian I think about what was going through his mind, because that's not the way to get attention," Bueno said.
The attorney general's office said it was opening an investigation into terrorism and kidnapping.
U.S., French and Mexican citizens were among the passengers, according to a U.S. official in Washington who was briefed on the situation. The official was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.
A U.S. Embassay spokesman said at least 14 U.S. citizens were on the plane and they were being interviewed by Mexican authorities at the airport.
Passenger Rocio Garcia told the Televisa network that the pilot made an announcement after landing in Mexico City that the airplane was being hijacked.
"These were scary moments," she said.
Passengers said the hijacker stayed in his seat throughout the incident and the pilot came back from the cockpit to negotiate with him.
Mexican officials negotiated the release of women and children through the pilot before sending in the police. The plane was isolated at the end of a runway in an area designed for emergencies and the airport remained open.
The most recent hijacking attempt in the Americas occurred April 19, when a man with a handgun tried to commandeer a Canadian jetliner in Jamaica. The standoff ended before takeoff at Montego Bay's airport when military commandos burst onto the plane and disarmed the man, who was described as "mentally challenged."