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HIJACKING A SWAZI AIRCRAFT

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image Hoare with unidentified colleagues in this undated picture. (Pics: Googled)

MBABANE – Mike Hoare, a fierce Irish guerrilla fighter in the 1980s, has written a book in which he reveals how he hijacked Swazi-land’s Fokker F28 and flew to the Seychelles Islands to overthrow that country’s former president.


This was in 1981.
Hoare, the mercenary, boarded a scheduled Fokker 28 on November 25, 1981 with a group of 43 mercenaries led by him at Matsapha International Airport to Mahe in the Seychelles in an attempt to overthrow the Seychelles’ then President France-Albert Rene.
Hoare’s book is titled, ‘The Seychelles Affair.’


The full version of the book was released by Paladin Press on December 14, 2012 after the first version was published on July 1, 2008.
It is now being sold by Paladin Press for E314 (Friday’s British Pound exchange rate) through Amazon.com.
It has not yet reached Africa but there were attempts to ship it to South Africa where Hoare lived in exile. It is now one of the best-sellers in the United States, UK and Europe.


Seychelles Island is located to the northeast of Madagascar and about 1 600km east of Kenya. It has a population of only 87 785.
The book sheds light on how Hoare perpetrated guerrilla fights and tricked airport security in Swaziland.


The now 93-year-old recalls that the journey to Seychelles to assassinate President Rene began in the Kingdom of Swaziland – at Matsapha International Airport.
In 1981, Seychelles exiles in South Africa, acting on behalf of ex-President James Mancham, had begun discussions with officials concerning a coup attempt to be launched in Seychelles in 1978.


The operation was entrusted to the then 58-year-old Hoare, who was living in South Africa as a civilian.
Among the 53 people selected to carry out the coup were some members of the South African Special Forces (Recces), several former Rhodesian (now Zimbabwe) soldiers and ex-Congo mercenaries.


Hoare and 43 mercenaries were disguised as tourists: rugby players and members of a beer-drinking group called the Ancient Order of Froth-blowers.
They arrived in a Royal Swazi jet, landing at Mahé airport, carrying their own weapons. It is said that nine members had already arrived on the island as an advance guard.


On the evening of Wednesday, November 25, the coup was detected when a Customs officer spotted an AK-47 in the luggage of one of Mike Hoare’s mercenaries.
The mercenaries then fought a brief gun-battle at the airport and most of the mercenaries escaped aboard an Air India jet (Air India Boeing aircraft Flight 224), which happened to be on the runway, which they hijacked.
One mercenary died during the skirmish. This was 24-year-old Johan Fritz of Westcliff from South Africa; the son of a General Mining executive who grew up on ‘Millionaire’s Row’.


Five soldiers, a female accomplice and also Martin Dolinchek (alias Anton Lubic) were left behind.
Hoare had been promised US$1 million (E10 million in today’s currency) to dethrone the Seychelles president.
He reveals that Swazi customs and the police believed that they were rugby players destined for Seychelles for an international tournament; totally unaware that AK-47s were hidden in their luggage.


They thought the bulging bags contained sportswear.
Reaching the Seychelles would have been impossible had it not been for the laxity at the Matsapha International Airport where they boarded the Fokker 28 operated by the Royal Swazi National Airways Corporation (RSNAC).
This is a story of an ill-fated coup when representatives of the exiled Seychelles president approached the legendary Hoare - who had successfully led the uprisings in the Congo in the early 1960s - to overthrow the Marxist regime then in power.


They were exposed as they passed through customs when an alert Seychelles official discovered a dismantled AK-47 in one of the mercenaries’ luggage.
A shootout at the airport in the Seychelles airport ensued. Bullets were fired at the Swaziland’s airline and it was damaged in the ensuing firefight between Seychellois officials and the mercenaries at Seychelles International Airport.


Of note is that after this incident, the airline ceased flights to the Seychelles.
However, the Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority (SWACAA) says there is nothing in history and the present that would stand in the way of bilateral air service between Swazi-land and Seychelles.


Sabelo Dlamini, the Marketing and Corporate Affairs Director, said they had not read the book and its contents were not known to the SWACAA family at this stage.
However, he said they had read and heard a bit about the incident that happened back in the 1980s involving the Royal Swazi National Airways.
He said they had no first-hand information on the incident but the country’s relationship with the Island’s Civil Aviation Authority was very good and mutually beneficial.

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