Unarmed guards couldn't stop Montego Bay hijack suspect: report

Unarmed security guards at the Montego Bay airport were unable to stop an armed hijacker from getting on CanJet Flight 918, reports are indicating.

Unarmed security guards at the Montego Bay airport were unable to stop an armed hijacker from getting on CanJet Flight 918, reports indicate.

These are some of the notable hijackings and attempted hijackings that have taken place since 2001:

  • Nov. 17, 2002: Israeli security guards tackle a hijacker trying to take control of an El Al plane during a flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul. A man tries to approach the cockpit, but two air marshals, including one posing as a passenger, pin him to the floor, witnesses said.
  • Oct. 3, 2006: Turkish Airlines Flight 1476 is hijacked while flying to Turkey from Albania. The flight eventually lands in Italy, where the 107 passengers and six crew members are freed.
  • Aug. 18, 2007: An Atlasjet airplane flying to Istanbul, Turkey, from Cyprus is hijacked by two men who want to fly to Iran. There were 136 passengers and six crew members on board. The two men give up in Antalya, Turkey.
  • Jan. 25, 2007: A domestic Sudanese flight with 103 people on board lands in the Chadian capital of N'djamena. The hijacker gives himself up 20 minutes after the plane landed.
  • Feb. 15, 2007: Spanish paramilitary police arrest a suspect who hijacked a passenger plane carrying 79 people shortly after it took off from Mauritania. The hijacking ends as passengers and crew reportedly overpower the man shortly after the Boeing 737-800 landed in the Spanish Canary Islands.
  • Dec. 28, 2007: A Russian Aeroflot jet lands in Prague after a passenger tells crew members he has an explosive device. The man, who did not have explosives, is pacified by other passengers.
  • Aug. 27, 2008: Two men who hijacked a plane in Sudan and diverted it to Libya surrender after a daylong standoff with security officials, freeing the 95 passengers and crew.

The Jamaica Gleaner newspaper reported online that an airport official told them a man "threatened personnel in the terminal before proceeding to the aircraft. But still, he was not restrained because there were no armed security personnel in the terminal." confirmed with an official at MBJ Airports Ltd., the company that runs the airport, that security officials do not carry guns in the terminal building at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to CBC News from Montego Bay, said it was not clear when or whether security at the busy Caribbean airport would be allowed to carry guns in the future.

The company official who spoke with the Jamaica Gleaner said security officials would not likely be armed, despite the recent incident.

The attempted hijacking of 174 scheduled passengers and six crew members was an isolated incident, the official told the paper.

Jamaican police eventually stormed the Canadian charter flight after negotiations with the gunman broke down, taking him into custody and safely releasing the crew members.

The opposition party in Jamaica, the People's National Party, is calling for an investigation into the incident, calling it a serious breach of of security, in a news release issued after the incident ended.

Many airports around the world, and in Canada, do not have armed security guards at every checkpoint but the facilities are also patrolled by local or national police forces whose members do carry firearms.

The flight left Halifax on Sunday at 7:15 p.m. local time for Montego Bay. It was to leave Jamaica later Sunday night and stop in Santa Clara, Cuba, before returning to Halifax.

Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding expressed relief that the standoff was over, apologized to Canadian passengers for their ordeal and promised a complete and thorough investigation into what he called an obvious security breakdown.

"I'm very relieved — extremely relieved — that it's over and nobody has been hurt," Golding said. "Arrangements to provide accommodations for the passengers have been made and they've also been offered funds to compensate for the money they surrendered to their captor."