Tanzania: Atc Iconic Pilot Mazula Laid to Rest Today

FORMER captain of the national airline, Deo Mazula, who earned popularity after rescuing an airplane from a hijack attempt in 1982, will be buried today in Arusha region.

Captain Mazula, who was born in September 1944, died on Friday at Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute (JKCI) while undergoing treatment. Hundreds of mourners paid their last respects at the Catholic Church of Bikira MariaSinza in Dar es Salaam, before his body was airlifted to Arusha for burial at Njiro Cemetery.

Earlier, Ms Joyce Mazula, the daughter of Captain Mazula, said her father had been suffering from back pains for a long time and had been sent to India for treatment. "After returning to the country he continued with treatment at Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH), later on, he got a stroke and succumbed," said Joyce.

Captain Mazula started working for East African Airways before the establishment of the Air Tanzania Corporation (ATC), which is now the ATCL. During the hijack attempt on February 27, 1982, some five hijackers faked mangoes as bombs and toy pistols, threatening to attack and that touched the hearts of many locals and foreigners.

The hijackers were named as Musa Membar (26) and his brother Yassin Membar (21), Mohammed Tahir Ahmed (21), Abdallah Ali Abdallah (22) and Mohammed Ali Abdallah (26). They boarded a Boeing 737 aircraft like other regular passengers, en route from Mwanza to Dar es Salaam, a plane with at least 99 passengers and crew. Their aim was to pressure First President Julius Nyerere to resign over what they claimed was protesting dictatorship.

They forced the pilot to fly to Nairobi, Kenya where the plane was refueled and flew them to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and then to Athens, Greece. In Greece, the hijacker stopped the plane from departing as one of the hijackers, Mr Membar, was fluent in Greek because he had worked as a sailor and taxi driver.

The hijacker insisted that if the captain would not heed to their directive they would bomb the plane. They later ordered the plane to head to London, Stansted, in UK where, when they arrived the then UK Prime Minister Magreth Thatcher ordered the release of the plane. Meanwhile, the talks were held between the hijackers and the British government through former Tanzania's Ambassador to Britain, Anthony Nyaki.

After 26 hours of negotiations, the perpetrators were exhausted and hungry and released the seven hostages after also asking to speak with Tanzanian opposition politician Oscar Kambona. After talks, on February 28, 1982, they surrendered. The abductors continued to live in the UK as refugees but later, Mussa Membar and Yassin Membar returned to Tanzania and ended up in prison, where in 1992 Mussa died while in prison.

Yassin Membar died on March 20, 2018 while undergoing treatment at Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute (JKCI). Until his death, Yassin was a lawyer of High Court of Tanzania.

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