Tags: turkey | hijacking | sochi | olympics

Turkish Police Question Hijacker Attempting to Force Plane to Sochi

Saturday, 08 February 2014 06:22 AM

ANKARA, Turkey  — Turkish state media say anti-terrorism police are questioning a Ukrainian man who reportedly tried to hijack a Turkey-bound flight to Sochi, Russia, as the Winter Olympics were beginning.

TRT television said Saturday that police were trying to determine whether the man, identified as Artem Hozlov, had links to any terror groups.

Police officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Officials said the man claimed he had a bomb and tried to divert the Pegasus Airlines flight which originated in Kharkiv, Ukraine. The crew tricked him and landed in Istanbul instead where he was subdued by security officers who sneaked on board.

The hijacking drama came as the Winter Olympics opened in the Russian resort city, with thousands of athletes from around the world pouring into the tightly secured stadium amid warnings the games could be a terrorism target.

A Turkish F-16 fighter was scrambled as soon as the pilot on the flight from Kharkiv, Ukraine, with 110 passengers aboard signaled there was a hijacking attempt, according to NTV television. It escorted the plane safely to its original destination at Sabiha Gokcen airport in Istanbul.
 
Officials credited the pilot and crew for convincing the 45-year-old-man, who claimed he had a bomb, that they were following his wishes.
 
"Through a very successful implementation by our pilot and crew, the plane was landed in Istanbul instead of Sochi," Istanbul governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu told reporters at the airport. "He thought it was going to Sochi but after a while he realized that (the plane) was in Istanbul."
 
He said the suspected hijacker was arrested after a stand-off during which a negotiator convinced him to first allow women and children to be evacuated and later agreed to let all other passengers off the plane as well.
 
"Our security units sneaked through various entrances during the evacuation of the passengers and with a quick and effective intervention the hijacker was subdued," Mutlu said. No bomb was found, he said.
 
Hozlov's motive was unclear, but Mutlu said he had "requests concerning his own country" and wanted to relay a "message concerning sporting activities in Sochi." Mutlu said there was no immediate indication that the man was a member of any terror organization.
 
Hozlov was slightly injured during the struggle when he was detained, but no weapons were used, he said. The private Dogan news agency said later that Hozlov was taken to a hospital for his injuries.
 
The Interfax news agency cited the Ukrainian Security Service, the country's main security agency, as saying the passenger was in a state of severe alcohol intoxication. Mutlu said the man was not drunk, but said he may have taken substances to help him remain alert. He did not elaborate.
 
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 fueled by recent suicide bombings have left athletes, spectators and officials worldwide jittery about potential threats.

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Turkish state media say anti-terrorism police are questioning a Ukrainian man who reportedly tried to hijack a Turkey-bound flight to Sochi, Russia, as the Winter Olympics were beginning.
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2014-22-08
Saturday, 08 February 2014 06:22 AM
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