Saturday, August 18, 2007

AtlasJet hijackers end up in custody in Turkey

AtlasJet logoEarly this morning, two men attempted to hijack an AtlasJet flight en route from Ercan International Airport in northern Cyprus to Istanbul. The MD-83 aircraft with 136 on board diverted to Antalya, a city on Turkey's Mediterranean coast where the would-be hijackers ultimately were taken into custody.

According to a report about the attempted hijacking on CNN, passengers from the flight said that two men from the back of the plane "rushed to the front and tried to break open the cockpit door." When their attempt to enter the flight deck failed, "the men began talking to the flight attendants in a mix of Arabic and English and asked to be taken to either Iran or Syria."

Passengers have told the press that the hijackers claimed they had a bomb, and that at least one of the men was armed with a knife.

News reports say that after the aircraft landed at Antalya, the pilots escaped through the cockpit windows. Some passengers and other crew members were held hostage aboard the plane for several hours after it landed.

The Guardian said that the hijackers allowed one of the doors of the aircraft to be opened for fresh air.
Most of the passengers had escaped the plane from the rear exit at Antalya airport while the hijackers were releasing women and children. But the hijackers held some six crew and passengers for around four hours before allowing them to leave the plane and later surrendering to authorities.
TV news footage shows passengers and other crew members evacuating through emergency exits and running from the aircraft while it sat on the runway at Antalya.

Here are some links to TV footage of the incident, from YouTube:
Turkey's Transport Minister Osman Gunes, quoted by the news media, said one hijacker is Turkish, while the other is believed to be Palestinian carrying a Syrian passport.

This is the second time I've reported on the hijacking of a Turkish airliner this year. In April, a Pegasus Airlines B737 was hijacked on a flight between Diyarbakir and Istanbul.