- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2003

ANKARA, Turkey, March 28 (UPI) — Greek police arrested a Turkish student Friday who pretended to have explosives and hijacked an airliner bound for the Turkish capital, diverting it to Athens.

The passengers got off the plane safely and it was not immediately clear if the hijacker knew they included two members of Parliament from the ruling Justice and Development Party, another from the opposition party and two former ministers, news channel NTV reported.

The hijacker shouted anti-war slogans as he was led away, apparently intending the incident to be a protest of Turkey's cooperation with the United States in allowing overflights to Iraq.

The man had 10 large candles that looked like dynamite strapped to his body and an airport official said at one point he tried to ignite them.

The Turkish Airlines jet, an Airbus 310 with 203 people on board, took off at 10 p.m. local time.

A person on the plane reportedly radioed from the cockpit to ask permission to land at the airport of Athens, Greece. Greek officials wanted the airplane to return to Ankara but allowed it to land — escorted by two Greek fighters — upon a request to refuel.

Turkish Channel 8 reached a passenger on board through a mobile phone who described the hijacker and said he let passengers communicate with the outside world.

Conditions remained orderly inside the plane without panic, officials said. The passenger told the TV channel, "Everything seems like a normal" and, "We are comfortably sitting down and waiting."

The hijacker apparently originally wanted to fly the plane to Moscow, officials said.


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