Valdosta Daily Times

National, International News

February 8, 2014

Attempt to hijack Turkish plane to Sochi foiled

ANKARA, Turkey — A Ukrainian man tried to hijack a Turkey-bound flight to Sochi, Russia, as the Winter Olympics were kicking off Friday, but the pilot tricked him and landed in Istanbul instead, where he was stealthily detained after a four-hour stand-off on a plane full of passengers, an official said.

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 Pegasus Airlines 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.

The man’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 and Mutlu did not give his name.

“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,” Mutlu said.

The governor said the man was being held at Istanbul police headquarters. The man 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 the man was taken to a hospital for his injuries. Private NTV television identified the man as Artem Hozlov.

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.

Habib Soluk, the Turkish Transport Ministry undersecretary, told NTV earlier that the man rose from his seat, shouted that there was bomb on board and tried to enter the locked cockpit. The pilot signaled that there was a hijack attempt and the airport was placed on high alert.

Air traffic at Sabiha Gokcen was halted throughout the incident but had returned to normal after the man’s arrest.

Mehmet Tutan, one of the passengers, told reporters at Sabiha Gokcen that people on board also believed they had landed in Sochi but realized the plane was in Turkey after switching on their mobile phones.

“We thought we had landed in Sochi. We thought so for a long time,” Tutan said. “Then we saw that there was a (Turkish) network on our mobile phone, that we were able to call outside, and that there was no roaming, we understood that we weren’t in Sochi.”

The plane landed at about 6 p.m. Turkish time, just as the opening ceremony for the Olympics was about to begin. The executive creative director of the Olympics opening ceremony told reporters afterward he heard of the threat but didn’t alter the show’s plans in any way.

“We had so much adrenaline in our veins that we could not grasp much,” Konstantin Ernst said through an interpreter.

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.

“It would be wrong to make any comment before all the facts are known but any security questions are of course a matter for the authorities,” International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said.

Security experts warn that Islamic militants in the Caucasus, who have threatened to derail the Winter Games that run from Feb. 7-23, could achieve their goal by choosing soft targets away from the Olympic sites or even outside Sochi.

Olympic organizers introduced blanket screening of all visitors, requiring them to share passport details to get a Winter Games spectator pass. Officials also cut access to vehicles lacking Sochi registration or a special pass, and guards were searching all train commuters.

1
Text Only
National, International News
  • Dollar Tree-Family Do_Rich copy.jpg Dollar Tree buys Family Dollar

    The fight for penny pinchers is intensifying.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Mideast Israe_Rich copy.jpg Gaza war rages despite Hamas, Israel truce pledges

    Israel and Hamas launched new attacks Sunday in the raging Gaza war, despite going back and forth over proposals for a temporary halt to nearly three weeks of fighting ahead of a major Muslim holiday.
    The failure to reach even a brief humanitarian lull in the fighting illustrated the difficulties in securing a more permanent truce as the sides remain far apart on their terms.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP81072904918 copy.jpg Today in History for Tuesday, July 29, 2014

    Today is Tuesday, July 29, the 210th day of 2014. There are 155 days left in the year.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP4507280123 copy.jpg Today in History for Monday, July 28, 2014
    Today is Monday, July 28, the 209th day of 2014. There are 156 days left in the year. 
     

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tentative deal reached on VA reform

    The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees have reached a tentative agreement on a plan to fix a veterans’ health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays.

    July 27, 2014

  • United States-Libya_Rich.jpg US evacuates embassy in Libya amid clashes

    The United States shuttered its embassy in Libya on Saturday and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort as fighting intensified between rival militias. Secretary of State John Kerry said “free-wheeling militia violence” prompted the move.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP9607270692 copy.jpg Today in History for Sunday, July 27, 2014

    Today is Sunday, July 27, the 208th day of 2014. There are 157 days left in the year.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • No ticket for Shrek over loud musical, chief says

    A musical being performed in a New Hampshire park has drawn some noise complaints, but the deputy police chief says he’s “not giving Shrek a ticket.”

    July 26, 2014

  • Arizona Execution Dru_Rich copy.jpg Arizona’s McCain: Execution was torture

    U.S. Sen. John McCain says the execution of an Arizona inmate that lasted two hours was torture.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ukraine Plane_Rich copy.jpg US: Russia firing into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.
    Russia accused Washington of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results