MEXICO CITY - Hijackers seized an AeroMexico passenger plane in Mexico with more than 100 people on board on Wednesday but the incident ended quickly. without bloodshed, and nine suspects were detained.
In the first hijack drama to hit Mexico in decades, pilots of the Boeing 737 radioed in after taking off from the Caribbean resort of Cancun to say they had been hijacked in mid-air, Transport Minister Juan Molinar told reporters.
About two hours after the plane landed at Mexico City's international airport, its original destination, Molinar said all the passengers were safely off the aircraft and that there was no bomb threat.
The passengers are safe. There was no bomb, Molinar told Mexico's Televisa channel shortly after TV images showed police leading the hijackers off the plane in handcuffs.
Nine men were detained, the daily El Universal reported on its website.
Mexican media said the hijackers had threatened to blow up the plane unless they were allowed to speak to President Felipe Calderon, whose presidential jet took off from Mexico City for the southeastern city of Campeche shortly after the drama.
Passengers described the men as well-dressed and said they had not been aware of the hijack during the flight. One man on board said one of the hijackers was carrying a bible.
We really didn't know what was going on, passenger Adriana Romero told Mexican television. We realized it was a hijack when we saw the police trucks.
It was not clear what the hijackers wanted. Some Mexican media said the men appeared to be Bolivian.
Mexico has no major radical political groups who espouse violence, and it was not known if the hijacking was linked in any way to Mexico's violent drug battles. Calderon is embroiled in a bitter war with powerful drug cartels, whose turf wars have killed more than 13,000 people since he took power in late 2006 and set the army on traffickers.
Direct attacks by drug gangs on the public or attempts to force talks with the government are very rare, however.
The last time a commercial plane was hijacked in Mexico was in 1972, when four men describing themselves as part of a group of armed communists seized an aircraft in the northern city of Monterrey and redirected it to Cuba.
Cancun is Mexico's top tourist destination and attracts millions of U.S. and European sunseekers every year to its white-sand beaches and luxury hotels.
Molinar said that after landing the plane had taxied to a part of the airport reserved for emergencies.
TV images showed the passengers filing off onto the tarmac and boarding buses as security forces in trucks swarmed the area and helicopters flew overhead. Most passengers appeared calm and some carried hand luggage.
Minutes after the passengers emerged, security forces boarded the plane and the crew emerged from the plane.
A U.S. official in Washington said there were 112 people aboard the plane in total, including Mexicans, Americans and French.
El Universal daily newspaper said the men had not been able to get inside the plane's cockpit.
(Reporting by Eliana Aponte, Cyntia Barrera, Carlos Pacheco and Miguel Angel Gutierrez; Writing by Catherine Bremer; Editing by Frances Kerry)