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Sochi Hijack Attempt Foiled as Plane Lands in Istanbul

Turkish Plane Lands after Hijacking Alert
A Turkish passenger plane lands at the Sabiha Gokcen Airport in Istanbul after the pilot gave a hijacking signal on Feb. 7, 2014. Photographer: Sebnem Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Turkish authorities said an attempt to hijack a passenger plane and divert it to Sochi, where the Winter Olympics started today, was foiled as the aircraft landed as scheduled in Istanbul.

The would-be hijacker has been “rendered ineffective” and all passengers have disembarked, Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu said, according to the official Anatolia news agency. “The operation is complete,” he said.

The civilian plane operated by Pegasus Airlines and carrying 110 passengers was flying from Kharkov in Ukraine to Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport when a passenger demanded that it change course to Sochi, Turkish Transportation Ministry Undersecretary Mehmet Habib Soluk said on CNN-Turk television.

Two F-16 jets from the Turkish Air Force were dispatched to escort the plane after it entered the country’s airspace, he said. Meanwhile, the would-be hijacker, a Ukrainian citizen, was tricked into thinking he was landing in Sochi as screens in the cockpit and cabin were darkened, Soluk said.

No bomb was found on the flight, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Yevgen Perebyinis said by phone from Kiev. The man who made the threat was “very drunk,” Russian news agency Interfax reported, citing Ukraine’s security service press center.

Air traffic at Sabiha Gokcen resumed at 9 p.m. local time, about three hours after the plane’s landing, Turkish newspaper Hurriyet said.

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