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Turkish Hijacker Surrenders in Athens

The 205 people aboard a Turkish Airlines plane are freed unharmed after an explosives scare.

March 29, 2003|From Associated Press

ATHENS — A hijacker who said he was armed with explosives commandeered a domestic Turkish flight late Friday and forced it to land in Greece, but he surrendered hours later and freed the 205 people aboard unharmed, officials said.

Police early today arrested 20-year-old Ozgur Gencarslan, a Turkish citizen who was reportedly distraught about family problems.

"All passengers are safe outside the airplane," Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said at the Athens airport.

The Turkish Airlines Airbus A310 was on a domestic flight from Istanbul to Ankara when it was hijacked 25 minutes after taking off. It diverted course and began heading toward the Aegean coastal city of Izmir, later traveling to Greece, Turkey's private NTV television reported.

The Greek air force scrambled F-16 fighter jets to prevent the plane from landing, but officials quickly called them off.

"Two hundred people are two hundred people. We would have prevented it coming to Athens, but they said they had no fuel and we couldn't risk it," Greek government spokesman Christos Protopapas said.

After the plane landed, Greek anti-terrorist police surrounded it at an isolated area of the airport and a top police official negotiated with the hijacker.

Turkey's transportation ministry said the hijacker claimed to have plastic explosives and had been seen carrying five candlesticks as he boarded in Istanbul. The ministry said he might have claimed that the candles were explosives.

Turkish police said Gencarslan hijacked the plane to reunite with his father, who lives in Germany, private NTV television reported.

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