When an Air India Plane was Hijacked by Mercenaries in Seychelles


In November 1981, Capt Umesh Saxena, piloting an Air India plane, landed in Seychelles in the middle of a counter coup attempt to overthrow President Albert Rene. The plane had come from Zimbabwe and was on its way to Bombay. The airport was locked down due to a battle between the security forces and the mercenaries. A simple plan to enter the country through immigration had gone horribly wrong.

The mercenaries, under the command of Col “Mad Mike” Hoare and his second in command Peter Duffy, entered the plane and got Capt Saxena to fly to South Africa, which had no diplomatic relations with India. Duffy continued to insist for years afterwards that there was no hijacking; the Natal Supreme Court did not agree with him and sentenced him to five years, though he was out after 21 months. A colourful character who had been to one of Britain’s premier public schools Gordonstoun and had been working in South Africa as a press photographer when he got involved in the counter coup plot, Duffy continued to live in Durban after being released. In October 2006, Duffy visited Saxena in his Mumbai home.

A new book on Duffy by South African journalist Graham Linscott has just been published, but even as plans were being made to launch it, news came on August 4 that Duffy had suddenly died. Read more

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