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Sun, Aug 19, 2007

Turkish Airliner Hijacking Ends Peacefully

Two Suspects, Possible Accomplice In Custody

The hijacking of a Turkish MD-83 airliner, which began when two hijackers attempted to take over an Atlasjet flight headed to Istanbul, ended without bloodshed Saturday morning.

According to the Associated Press, six crew members and 136 passengers were on the flight, which departed from Ercan airport in northern Cyprus. Once in the air, the two hijackers said they had a bomb and demanded the plane be diverted to Iran.

After a failed attempt by the hijackers to enter the cockpit, the Atlasjet pilots were able to land the plane at Antalya airport in Turkey, the AP reports. Upon arrival, the hijackers released women and children, but many others escaped. The Turkish Ministry of Transportation said the pilots were able to evacuate through the cockpit windows.

The hijackers held several crew members and passengers hostage for over four hours, before finally allowing them to leave and surrendering to authorities.

"The adventure that started early in the morning finally came to an end," Tuncay Doganer, the chief executive of Atlasjet, told the AP. "With the two hijackers surrendering, the incident ended with no bloodshed."

One of the hijackers is Turkish, while the other is believed to be a Palestinian with a Syrian passport, said Transport Minister Osman Gunes.

Motives for the hijacking are not immediately apparent. A civil aviation official told CNN it was not clear if the hijackers had a bomb, though they did have knives.

The two men, identified as Mehmet Resat Ozlu and Abdul Aziz Maliki, apparently told an official they "apologized to the Turkish nation" for seizing the plane, Gune said.

Alaaddin Yuksel, the governor of Antalya province, told the AP a passenger suspected to have ties to the hijackers has also been detained, and the hijackers are currently being questioned by anti-terrorism police. During initial questioning, the two men said they tried to break through the cockpit door, but when unsuccessful told passengers they were members of al-Qaida and had placed explosives on the plane, the AP reports.

Experts are examining the material the hijackers claimed was a bomb.

The hijacking is the latest in a string of plots involving Turkish planes, despite increased security measures to prevent such attacks.

FMI: www.atlasjet.com/en/, www.aytport.com/, www.egm.gov.tr/

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