- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 19, 2002

ISTANBUL The man who tried to hijack an Israeli flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul planned to fly the jet into a Tel Aviv skyscraper, Turkish intelligence services said yesterday.
Tawfiq Fukra, a 23-year-old Israeli Arab, wanted to carry out a September 11-style attack when he attempted to storm the cockpit of a Boeing 737 passenger jet Sunday night, police and intelligence officers said after interviewing the suspect.
Turkish police said the man had hidden a 11/2-inch knife in the belt of his pants and as the flight began its descent into Istanbul, he attacked a flight attendant.
A Turkish police officer said the man had "dreamed of an attack like September 11 against the United States," when Islamist extremists hijacked airliners and slammed them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing more than 3,000 people.
A single man from a village in the Galilee region in northern Israel, Mr. Fukra was not known to have links with any terrorist organizations and acted "simply to make the voice of the Palestinian people heard," the police officer said.
A statement from Turkey's intelligence agency that was distributed by the official Anatolia news agency said the would-be hijacker wanted to crash the jet into a Tel Aviv building.
Moshe Khafi, a spokesman for the Israeli consulate in Istanbul, said: "It is possible that the man is not entirely right in the head.
The suspect, who was grilled for several hours after undergoing a medical examination, appeared in court yesterday.
The plane, on a scheduled flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul with 170 passengers aboard, alerted air-traffic controllers of the hijacking attempt on its landing approach to Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport.
Security guards overpowered the man within minutes, and the plane landed about 9:50 p.m. without incident.
Turkish police said Mr. Fukra carried out the hijacking attempt "to protest against Israel," Anatolia news agency said.
The young man picked the flight to Istanbul because it was "a cheap flight," police said.
Photographs taken at the airport showed him wearing light trousers and an open-necked shirt, his hands handcuffed, being escorted away by police.
El Al is known as one of the world's most secure airlines, with air marshals on every flight. The airline has not had a successful hijacking in 20 years.
Its cockpits are protected by two doors, which remain closed throughout flights, while security guards in civilian clothes often mix with passengers.
Security measures for flights out of Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport are especially tight, with passengers regularly quizzed as to reasons for traveling.
Istanbul is home to a large Jewish community, and Turkey is a prime destination for Israeli tourists.


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