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Turkish Hijacking Drama Ends Without Bloodshed

Scenes from the hijacking in Antalya (AFP) August 18, 2007 -- A Turkish passenger jet flying from Northern Cyprus was hijacked today and forced to land in the southern Turkish city of Antalya.

News agencies are reporting that all 136 passengers and six crew members on board the private Turkish airline Atlas-Jet have either escaped or been freed, and that the hijackers themselves have surrendered.

The two men were immediately arrested. Reports said they were a Turkish national and a Palestinian, although Turkish Cypriot Transport Minister Salih Usar earlier claimed they were both Iranian and had hijacked the plane to protest U.S. policies.

Shortly after takeoff from Ercan airport in divided Nicosia, Atlas-Jet officials said that two hijackers asked that the plane be diverted to Iran but the pilots landed the plane in Antalya, saying they needed to refuel.

Television footage showed passengers running from the plane's side and back doors while the aircraft sat on the tarmac in Antalya.

News reports quote witnesses as saying the hijackers spoke Arabic and identified themselves as members of Al-Qaeda. Some witnesses also said the hijackers claimed to have a bomb.

Plane hijacks and bomb threats are not uncommon in Turkey, which is home to a number of radical groups ranging from Kurdish separatists to far-left militants.

(compiled from agency reports)

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