ANKARA, Turkey — Two men who hijacked a Turkish passenger plane in an apparent protest against the U.S. surrendered to authorities Saturday after holding some crew members and passengers hostage for more than four hours. No one was hurt.
The men claimed to be carrying a bomb and demanded that the Atlasjet Airlines plane headed from northern Cyprus to Istanbul be diverted to Iran. The plane, which had taken off from northern Cyprus headed for Istanbul, landed at Antalya airport after pilots said they needed to refuel.
“The adventure that started early in the morning finally came to an end,” said Tuncay Doganer, the CEO of Atlasjet. “With the two hijackers having surrendered, the incident ended with no bloodshed.”
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.
“All passengers and crew members are currently in the lounge of Antalya airport and all are well,” Doganer said.
Protest against U.S.?
Salih Usar, the transportation ministry of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state, said earlier that the two hijackers were protesting against the United States, NTV reported. He didn’t offer any more details.
Turkey’s Transport Minister Osman Gunes said one hijacker is Turkish, while the other is believed to be Palestinian carrying a Syrian passport.
Passenger Erhan Erkul told NTV that the hijackers ran toward the cockpit shortly after takeoff, tried to break down the door but failed.
“They claimed to have bombs,” Erkul said.
A female passenger, who was not identified, said the hijackers allowed the crew to serve water to the passengers.
Hijackers reportedly tried to assure passengers
Passengers speaking to NTV and CNN-Turk said the hijackers spoke Arabic to each other and promised not to harm the passengers. “We are Muslims,” the passengers quoted one of the hijackers as saying.
Once on the ground in Antalya, the hijackers allowed one of the doors on the side of the plane to be opened for fresh air after the air conditioner of the plane was switched off and some passengers fainted.
There have been several hijackings of Turkish airplanes in recent years despite increased security measures at the airports. In most cases, the hijackers surrendered and the passengers were safely evacuated.
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