IMAGE: HIJACKED PLANE
Reuters
The Turkish Airlines jet that was hijacked Tuesday sits on a runway in Brindisi, Italy, before the incident ended.
updated 10/3/2006 3:38:01 PM ET 2006-10-03T19:38:01

The hijacking Tuesday of a Turkish Airlines jet carrying 113 people from Albania to Istanbul ended peacefully when a man surrendered to Italian authorities and asked for political asylum.

The Boeing 737 landed in Brindisi and two hours later the unarmed man departed the plane.

Initial reports said two Turkish men had hijacked the plane in a protest against next month's visit to Turkey by Pope Benedict XVI.

But Turkey's transportation minister later said only one man was involved and that he was trying to flee military service.

"It has nothing to do with the pope's visit; it was a simple attempt of seeking political asylum under the influence of psychological problems," Binali Yildirim said of the hijacker, identified as  Hakan Ekinci.

Benedict angered the Muslim world in a speech in Germany on Sept. 12, when he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor as saying: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

Benedict has expressed regret for offending Muslims by his remarks and said they did not reflect his personal views, but he has not offered a complete apology as some had sought.

Turkish Airlines officials had initially said the pilots warned of two hijackers, but it may be that the suspect duped them into thinking there was a second hijacker.

The Turkish captain issued an alert that his plane was hijacked and he was contacted by Greek air traffic controllers at 5:55 p.m. (10:55 a.m. EDT), 15 miles north of Thessaloniki, Greece, said Dimitris Stavropoulos, spokesman for Greece’s Civil Aviation Authority.

The captain told the Greek controllers: “I have two undesirable people who want to go to Italy to see the pope and give him a message,” according to Stavropoulos.

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