Mystery as envoy tries to hijack jet mid-flight
Published 26/04/2011 | 05:00
ITALIAN police were yesterday trying to discover what led a Kazakh diplomat to apparently attempt the hijacking of an Alitalia flight on Sunday evening.
Valery Tolmachev, believed to be an adviser to Kazakhstan's mission to Unesco, allegedly threatened a flight attendant on board the Paris-Rome flight with a small knife or nail file, and demanded that the pilot divert the aircraft to Tripoli, the Libyan capital.
Witnesses on board said Mr Tolmachev (48) grabbed a member of the cabin crew, put a small, sharp object to her throat, and threatened to kill her if the aircraft did not change course.
He was wrestled away by passengers and given a sedative, according to reports, with the flight continuing as normal to Rome. The airline said an "agitated" passenger had "assaulted a flight attendant and asked that the plane be taken to Tripoli".
A woman passenger said: "I just heard a voice saying, 'Be quiet' and then a flight attendant being held by him, with something like a knife to her throat."
On landing in Rome, Mr Tolmachev, wearing a white tracksuit top and covering his face from television cameras, was escorted from the airport by police and taken for questioning. Police said they had ruled out terrorism as a motive.
The Kazakhstan embassy in Rome said yesterday that it had not yet made contact with Mr Tolmachev and could not confirm his identity.
The flight attendant was treated at the airport for minor injuries and nobody else was hurt in the incident. Mr Tolmachev remained in custody last night. (© Independent News Service)