Man held in 'Sochi jet hijack bid'
Published 07/02/2014 | 17:52
A passenger on an Istanbul-bound flight was arrested today after first claiming there was a bomb on board before trying to hijack the plane to Sochi, Russia, where the Winter Olympics are being held.
According to NTV television, an F-16 fighter plane was scrambled as soon as the pilot signalled there was a hijacking attempt and escorted the plane to Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport.
Turkey's state-run TRT television said authorities convinced the man to give himself up and he was taken into police custody.
There were 110 passengers on board the flight from Kharkiv, Ukraine.
Habib Soluk, the Turkish Transport Ministry undersecretary, told NTV that the man rose from his seat, shouted that there was bomb on board and tried to enter the locked cockpit. The pilot signalled that there was a hijack attempt and the airport was placed on high alert.
"The man was made to believe the plane was heading to Sochi," Soluk said.
The Interfax news agency cited the Ukrainian Security Service, the country's main security agency, as saying the passenger who tried to hijack the plane was in a state of severe alcohol intoxication.
Pegasus Airlines confirmed in a brief statement there was a "bomb threat" aboard their flight from Kharkiv.
The plane's captain, Ilyas Karagulle, signalled that the crew was well, according to state-run TRT television.
With about 100,000 police, security agents and army troops flooding Sochi, Russia has pledged to ensure "the safest Olympics in history". But terror fears fuelled by recent suicide bombings have left athletes, spectators and officials worldwide jittery about potential threats.
Security experts warn that Islamic militants in the Caucasus, who have threatened to derail the Winter Games that run from February 7-23, could achieve their goal by choosing soft targets away from the Olympic sites or even outside Sochi.
Authorities snuck onto the plane and subdued the suspected hijacker while the other 109 passengers were being evacuated, Huseyin Avni Mutlu, the Istanbul governor, told reporters at Sabiha Gokcen airport.
The man was slightly injured during the struggle, but no weapons were used, he said. The man did not have a bomb on him, he said.
The passengers were evacuated without problems and the "operation has ended," Mutlu said on Twitter.
The man's motive was unclear, but Mr Mutlu said he had "requests concerning his own country" and wanted to relay a "message concerning sporting activities in Sochi."
"We were receiving through various channels information that there could be initiatives to sabotage the spirit of peace arising in Sochi, but we are saddened that such an event took place in our city," Mr Mutlu said.