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Lebanese man hijacks plane bound for Cuba

A man claiming he had a bomb hijacked a plane bound for Cuba on Friday, forcing it to land in Miami, where he eventually surrendered, according to the FBI. None of the plane's 217 passengers or 14 crew members was injured.

The man, identified by the FBI as Saado Ibrahim, was arrested immediately after his surrender, said FBI Special Agent Paul Philip. Ibrahim, who the FBI said was born in Lebanon in 1968, left the plane with his arms above his head, according to the Metro Dade County Police Department, and was accompanied by the plane's pilot.

Iberia Airlines Flight 6621 departed Madrid at 6:28 a.m. Friday for its daily nine-hour flight to Havana. The airline was notified of the hijacking at 1:45 p.m. The plane landed at Miami International Airport at 2:58 p.m. and was immediately taken to a remote section of the airport's tarmac.

"Mr. Ibrahim approached a flight attendant and said he had a bomb," Philip said. "It turned out not to be a bomb."

Ibrahim made the fake bomb in one of the plane's bathrooms by dismantling a small cassette recorder and an electric shaver, and wrapping them in foil while leaving two wires exposed, said Miguel Angel Rodriguez, spokesman for Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

He showed it to a flight attendant and told the crew that if the wires were crossed, the bomb would detonate, Rodriguez said.

The pilot, not knowing the bomb was a fake, complied with Ibrahim's orders, the FBI said.

According to Rodriguez of the Spanish government, Ibrahim left a refugee camp in Beirut on July 25 and made his way to Zurich, Switzerland. Ibrahim then flew aboard a Swiss Air flight to Madrid, Rodriguez said, where he arrived hours before boarding Flight 6621. Ibrahim apparently never cleared passport control to enter Spain legally, Rodriguez said.

Carlos Abella, consul general of Spain, said Spanish and U.S. authorities remain puzzled by the hijacker's motive.

Abella said Ibrahim told FBI agents he was being sent to a terrorist training camp in Cuba. "He said he didn't want to go (to the camp) and that's why he did it," Abella said.

But if that was the case, Abella said, investigators wonder why he didn't just stay in Madrid.

Ibrahim sat behind the pilot in the cockpit for the rest of the flight, and only those passengers in first class had any idea of what was going on.

The pilot only explained the situation to passengers moments after landing in Miami.

Passengers continued on to Havana on the same plane Friday night.

Ibrahim will be charged with one count of committing air piracy, a federal offense that carries a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison, Philip said.

_ Information from Times staff writer David Adams and the Associated Press was used in this report.

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