No One Hurt, Hijacker Surrenders
he said was a bomb was actually a bundle of candles. But for a
while Saturday morning, authorities in both Turkey and Greece were
worried his explosives might have been real and his threat to
detonate them on board the Turkish Airlines flight would be
The 20-year-old Turkish man was said to have been worried about
family problems. He was arrested in Athens, Greece, Saturday after
negotiating with both Turkish and Greek government leaders.
Police told reporters Ozgur Gencarslan was likely unarmed. The
explosives he claimed to have turned out to be candles. "We want to
confirm that with lab tests," one police official said on the
condition that he not be named.
"All passengers are safe outside the airplane. That was our
concern," Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said at Athens
Greek Deputy Transport Minister Manolis Stratakis said
Gencarslan had personal problems and that the hijack did not look
to be politically motivated.
"It appears he had some psychological problems," Stratakis
Now THAT'S Over, Where To Hold The Trial?
Although Greek officials began a formal investigation, it was
unclear if Gencarslan would be tried in Greece or returned to
Turkey. Turkish Transportation Minister Binali Yildirim said the
hijacker would be sent home.
"The investigation will proceed in accordance with the criminal
law and all legal procedures will be adhered to," Public Order
Minister Michalis Chisohoidis told reporters.
Turkish authorities said the plane had 205 people aboard —
196 passengers and nine crew members — and had taken off from
Istanbul for Ankara when it was hijacked 25 minutes after
Turkish authorities earlier said the hijacker wanted to fly to
Berlin and complained that his mother and sister were being kept
Turkish Minister: "He Has Some Family Problems"
Several members of Turkey's Parliament were said to have been on
board the flight. There was no immediate confirmation, however,
from Greek authorities and passengers were whisked away immediately
after they deplaned.
Greek anti-terrorist police earlier surrounded the Airbus A310
plane on the runway in Athens, and a top police official had been
at the airport to negotiate with the hijacker. The Greek air force
scrambled F-16 fighter jets to prevent the plane from landing, but
officials quickly called them off.
According to Turkish police, Gencarslan hijacked
the plane to reunite with his father, who lives in Germany, private
NTV television said. He was reportedly depressed because his
stepfather had barred him from seeing his mother and sister living
in eastern Turkey, it added.
"He has some family problems, we've used a fatherly and
understanding approach to convince him," Yildirim said.
Earlier, Turkish television broadcast interviews with passengers
who spoke via mobile phones during the hijacking, while anxious
friends and relatives waited in the nearby terminal (above).
"The hostess told us that a male hijacker was in the cockpit,
and said he had strapped bombs onto his body," a passenger who
identified himself as Sami told private NTV television by phone
from the plane.
Frequently Hijacked Air Miles
The plane was parked in a remote corner of Athens'
new Eleftherios Venizelos Airport. The airport opened in 2001 as
part of Greece's drive to modernize before the Olympic games in the
Greek capital next year. The Greek police have for months been
training a special anti-terrorist squad to deal with hijackings and
other terrorism at the airport as part of its preparations for the
The last hijacking at Istanbul's airport was in February, when a
lone hijacker claiming to have a bomb briefly held two flight
attendants hostage before police stormed the aircraft. In 1998, a
man carrying a teddy bear he claimed was stuffed with explosives
commandeered a Turkish Airlines flight. The incident ended when he
was overpowered by other passengers. Seven months later a man
brandishing what turned out to be a toy gun hijacked another
Turkish jetliner. He was persuaded to surrender.
A third hijacking that year ended in bloodshed when security
officials stormed a plane on the tarmac at Ankara airport and shot
dead a Kurdish rebel armed with a hand grenade. No passengers were