The Bible-carrying hijacker used a juice can he said was a bomb to hold the 103 passengers and crew on the tarmac for more than an hour. Masked police stormed the aircraft with their guns drawn and escorted several handcuffed men away without firing a shot. Police later said there was only one hijacker.
Jose Flores, 44, told investigators he hijacked Aeromexico Flight 576 after a divine revelation, according to Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna. Flores said Wednesday's date — 9-9-09 — is the satanic number 666 turned upside down.
Flores, speaking to reporters after he was detained, said he took control of the aircraft with "a juice can with some little lights I attached."
"Christ is coming soon," he added, smiling.
As the plane was landing, Flores stood up and showed his contraption to a flight attendant, saying he and three others were hijacking the plane, Garcia Luna said. Flores later told police his three companions were "the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost."
He ordered the pilot to circle over Mexico City seven times and asked to speak with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, saying he wanted to warn him of an impending earthquake, Garcia Luna said.
Garcia Luna said Flores is a drug addict who was convicted of armed robbery in Bolivia, and has lived in Mexico for 17 years. Flores described himself as a pastor in southern Oaxaca state who had gone to Cancun to preach.
The attorney general's office said it was opening an investigation into terrorism and kidnapping.
U.S., French and Mexican citizens were among the passengers, according to a U.S. official who had been briefed on the situation. The official was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Passenger Rocio Garcia told the Televisa network that the pilot made an announcement after landing in Mexico City that the airplane was being hijacked.
"These were scary moments," she said.
Mexican officials negotiated the release of women and children through the pilot before sending in the police. The plane was isolated at the end of a runway in an area designed for emergencies and the airport remained open.
The most recent hijacking in the Americas occurred on April 19, when a man with a handgun tried to commandeer a Canadian jetliner from Jamaica. The standoff ended before takeoff at Montego Bay's airport when military commandos burst onto the plane and disarmed the man, who was described as "mentally challenged."
Associated Press writer Devlin Barrett contributed to this report from Washington.