Friday, February 08, 2008

New Zealand Hijacker 'Was Known' to Police: Finally Identified as Asha Ali Abdille

We noted yesterday the attempted hijacking by the Somali woman in New Zealand, and it took quite a bit of searching until we could locate her name.

For some strange reason, most media outlets are reticent to tell us who she is.

Hmmm. I wonder why?
A 33-year-old woman immigrant from Somalia was charged with hijacking Friday after invading the cockpit of a small commuter plane on a domestic flight in New Zealand and stabbing the two pilots.

The plane, carrying seven passengers on an early morning, 240-kilometre flight from Blenheim to Christchurch, made a safe emergency landing after the knife-wielding woman fell in severe turbulence, police said.

One of the pilots was so badly slashed on the hands as he fought off the woman who tried to grab the controls that he had to undergo surgery.

The co-pilot and another woman passenger who intervened were treated for less serious cuts.

Police said the woman, who demanded to be flown to Australia at one stage, was sitting immediately behind the pilot and jumped up and attacked him 10 minutes after take-off.

She claimed she had brought two bombs on board, but army experts who searched the plane, which was taxied to an isolated part of the airfield, found nothing. The Christchurch airport was closed to all flights and the terminal evacuated for more than two hours until the all-clear was given, reports said.

New Zealand television channels said the woman - who they named as Asha Ali Abdille - came to New Zealand as a refugee with a troubled past in 1994 when she was aged 19 and was known to police.

She had been the subject of questions in parliament following an on-going fight with the immigration department which rejected her application for New Zealand residence visas for 14 members of her extended family.

The woman had been working as a fruit picker in the Blenheim area and leaders of the Somali immigrant community in New Zealand were reported as having distanced themselves from her.
Just curious as to why in all these stories nobody wants to name her?

Anyone want to hedge a guess?

UPDATE: Linked at Instapundit and Israellycool. Thanks!

While further looking into this story, I find it curious that passengers on short domestic flights do not pass through security screening. I suspect that will soon be changed.
Air New Zealand general manager of short haul airlines, Bruce Parton, said the airline was reviewing its security procedures.

"Today's incident, although a one-off, has naturally given us cause to conduct a thorough review of our safety and security systems and processes on regional domestic flights,'' Parton said.

Passengers boarding short haul flights at New Zealand airports do not routinely pass through security screening.
Can you say soft target?

As we know from recent headlines, it's not beneath terrorists using unstable women to do their evil deeds. Of course, his may well not be terror-related, but it would be nice if the media dug a little deeper here.

A few more details on her past emerge.
Ms Abdille was born in Sudan but grew up in Somalia. When fighting began in Mogadishu in 1991, she was separated from her family and eventually flown to New Zealand in 1994 as a refugee.

She has moved frequently since and is said to be alienated from her community and frustrated by failures to reunite with her family.

A Blenheim Muslim community spokesman, Zayad Blissett, said that Ms Abdille was not part of the community. “She has quite a history of mental instability and she has threatened to kill family here. She's an alcoholic and very unstable.”

A taxi driver says Ms Abdille had seemed "vague" when he took her to Blenheim airport. The driver, who identified himself as Colin, told New Zealand radio: “She was a wee bit vague. He described her as "away with the fairies.”

"She couldn't work out where she wanted to go for while which I thought was quite strange at that time of the morning. She was very nervous, very unsure of where she wanted to go and what she wanted to do.”
All the more reason to wonder why she was allowed on a plane.

UPDATE II: More on her troubled history. I can just see it now: The system failed her...
The woman is understood to be Asha ali Abdille, who was born in Sudan but grew up in Somalia. When fighting began in Mogadishu in 1991, she was separated from her family and spent time in refugee camps on the Kenyan border. In a 1999 interview with Waikato's This Week newspaper, Abdille said she was raped a number of times by soldiers and bandits.

Eventually the UN High Commissioner for Refugees flew her to hospital in Nairobi, where she stayed until being selected as a refugee in need of urgent, special protection and flown to New Zealand in 1994.

Since then she has moved around the country, living for short periods in Hamilton, Wellington, Napier, Nelson and Christchurch. She had suffered a head injury, which gave her recurring health problems. She is also believed to have headaches, dizziness and nightmares from her experiences in Africa.

She also injured her back when she fell from a ladder while picking fruit in Hastings, leaving her on sickness benefit. She settled in Wellington with other Somali refugees, but soon moved away from the community and is understood to have begun drinking and getting involved in petty crime, before moving to the South Island in search of seasonal work.

After spending time in Nelson, the woman moved to Blenheim three years ago.

In November 2004, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters raised concerns about Abdille, asking questions in Parliament of the Immigration Minister at the time, Paul Swain.

Speaking under parliamentary privilege, Mr Peters said the woman had a "police record a mile long" and had been "bludging off the New Zealand taxpayer" for 10 years.

He said she had been trying to bring 14 of her relatives to New Zealand and had a record of convictions that would make Al Capone proud.
UPDATE III: LGF links. Thanks!

UPDATE IV: Latest out of New Zealand is Abdille has been remanded for psychiatric evaluation. Television cameras were banned from the cout hearing.

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