• Winter Olympics

Passenger tries to hijack plane toward Sochi

ESPN staff
February 7, 2014

A Ukrainian plane passenger suspected of making a bomb threat in an attempt to hijack a flight to Sochi, Russia, where the Winter Olympics were opening under tight security, was detained by Turkish security forces on Friday.

According to NTV television, an F-16 fighter was scrambled and escorted the plane safely to its original destination in Istanbul after the pilot on the flight from Kharkiv, Ukraine, signalled there was a hijacking attempt.

Istanbul governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu told reporters at Sabiha Gokcen airport that as the other 109 passengers were evacuated, authorities boarded the plane and subdued the suspected hijacker. He also said that the man was slightly injured, though no weapons were used and he did not have a bomb on him.

Mutlu said on Twitter that the passengers were evacuated without problems and the "operation has ended."

It is unclear what the man's motives were, however Mutlu has said that he had "requests concerning his own country", and wanted to relay a "message concerning sporting activities in Sochi."

"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 Ukrainian Security Service were cited by the Interfax news agency as saying the passenger was in a state of severe alcohol intoxication. Mutlu disputed that notion, but said he may have taken other substances.

Turkish Transport Ministry undersecretary Habib Soluk told NTV the man got up from his seat, declared there was bomb on board the plane and then tried to force his way into the locked cockpit, at which point the pilot signalled the attempted hijacking.

"The man was made to believe the plane was heading to Sochi," Soluk said.

It has been confirmed in a brief statement by Pegasus Airlines that there was a "bomb threat" aboard their flight from Kharkiv. State-run TRT television report that the plane's captain, Ilyas Karagulle, signalled that the crew was well.

The plane landed at about 6 p.m. Turkish time, just as the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony got underway in Sochi.

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