A flight from Ukraine has landed safely in Turkey after a passenger reportedly attempted to hijack the plane and force it to divert to Sochi
A jet carrying 110 passengers from Ukraine has landed in Istanbul after a reported hijacking attempt.
The plane landed safely at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport, and photos on social media showed a man in a tracksuit being led off the plane.
The Interfax news agency cited the Ukrainian Security Service, the country’s main security agency, as saying the passenger who tried to hijack the plane was in a state of severe alcohol intoxication. It also said he has been pacified, and no weapons or explosives were found on him, but it was not clear where the information was coming from.
“A Pegasus Airlines plane flying from Kharkov to Sabiha Gokcen landed at Sabiha Gokcen safely after receiving a bomb threat while in the air,” the Turkish civil aviation authority said in a statement.
Habib Soluk, an official from Turkey‘s transport ministry, confirmed that a bomb threat had been made.
“We are sure that he didn’t enter the cockpit. We know that the aircraft was hijacked before it entered Turkish airspace,” he said.
He said authorities were trying to convince the passenger – reportedly a Ukranian – to give himself up.
“People are still inside but the pilot called security and gave them a signal that they can enter the plane. There is a translator – a Turkish man near the Ukrainian to calm him down,” an airport official told Reuters.
The passenger was calmed down by the crew and persuaded to let the plane, a Boeing 737-800, land in Istanbul at 6:02 pm (1602 GMT), according to Dogan news agency.
Turkish media said that the Ukrainian man attempted to hijack the plane en route from Kharkov in Ukraine to Turkey, and divert it to Sochi – where the Winter Olympics are taking place.
The man claimed there was a bomb on board the Pegasus Airlines aircraft, tried to gain access to the cockpit and was carrying a detonator, the unconfirmed reports said.
The pilot managed to sound the alert and an F-16 Turkish military jet was scrambled, forcing the plane to land in Istanbul, the reports said.
The head of Turkey’s main pilots’ union said: “I received confirmation that everyone on board is okay and that the plane is fine. I know the pilot… he is experienced and I am sure everything is fine.”
Pegasus Airlines confirmed in a brief statement that there was a “bomb threat” aboard their flight from Kharkov.
Turkish anti-terrorist commandos and armed police were searching all the passengers on the aircraft for explosives, the reports said.
Little detail was known about the man behind the reported attempt.
But coming just hours before the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi - just across the Black Sea from Istanbul – the suspicion was immediately raised that it could be connected to the Olympics.
Terrorists from the Caucasus region of Russia have threatened to launch an attack on the Games. Earlier this week the United States warned that terrorists could be attempting to bring a bomb to Sochi hidden inside toothpaste tubes. And the US has banned the transport of all liquids and gels on flights to Russia, in response to the heightened threat.
Russia is under huge pressure to organise a glitch-free Games after a build-up dogged by controversies over gay rights, construction delays and security.