TOKYO — A man carrying an ice pick seized a domestic flight and threatened the other 364 people aboard unless the leader of the cult accused in the Tokyo subway gassing is released from jail.
The All Nippon Airways flight from Tokyo landed at its destination, Hakodate — 425 miles north of the capital — and parked some distance from the terminal. There was no immediate word of injuries to passengers or crew, but one television station reported that the flight engineer had been tied up.
The pilot said the assailant warned police and soldiers to stay away, asked whether the plane could be refueled, and demanded a pair of binoculars.
News reports that the attacker had plastic explosives could not immediately be confirmed.
The minister in charge of public security, Hiromu Nonaka, said more than one assailant may have been on the plane. News reports said the assailant claimed that other passengers were accomplices.
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Police said the assailant, who claimed to be a disciple, demanded the release of Asahara, who has been charged with murder in the March 20 Tokyo subways attack.
The seizing of the plane was the latest turn in a crime drama that has galvanized Japan. The subway attack shattered long-held notions of safety.
Television showed pictures of the Boeing 747 with the pilot visible in the cockpit.
The pilot had activated an in-flight alarm known as the “hijack button.”
Top government officials were meeting in emergency session, the chief government spokesman said.