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Last Updated:  Saturday, 29 March, 2003, 04:07 GMT
Turkish Airlines plane hijacked
Hijacked Turkish Airlines Flight TK160
More than 200 passengers are on board

A hijacked internal Turkish Airlines flight has landed in Athens escorted by two Greek fighter jets, officials have confirmed.

Turkey's ff Transport Minister Binali Yildirim said the lone hijacker wanted to fly on to Berlin.

The BBC's Athens correspondent says Greek officials say there could be as many as four hijackers on board the plane.

A spokesman for Germany's air traffic control said they had received information that the hijacker has made a demand to fly to "Duesseldorf or Berlin".

The demands of the hijacker who is said to be carrying explosives are not clear, although he has complained that his mother and sister were being kept "hostage," Turkish transport officials said.

Flight TK160, flying from Istanbul to Ankara, was reported hijacked soon after take-off at 2000 GMT.

It diverted course, heading towards the Aegean coastal city of Izmir, but later turned towards neighbouring Greece.

According to the BBC's correspondent Jonny Dymond there have been requests that the plane be refuelled in Athens.

A Greek government official told Reuters news agency the plane had informed the control tower in Athens it was running out of fuel so permission was given for the plane to land after it was initially refused.

There are reportedly 203 people on board, 194 passengers and nine crew.

'MPs on board'

There are also reports that two members of the governing party and one opposition member of parliament are on board the flight.

The Airbus 310 jet is currently on the runway surrounded by Greek military personnel and ambulances.

Turkish Airlines operates a regular shuttle flight between the country's two biggest cities.

Policemen at Istanbul's Ataturk airport
Istanbul's Ataturk airport is on high alert
Turkey has been hit by several hijackings in recent years.

In November 2002, Israeli security guards foiled a suspected hijacking attempt on an El Al Airlines flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul, overpowering a passenger armed with a pocket knife, according to reports.

In 2001 a Russian plane was hijacked in Turkey.

In 1999, a hijacker armed with a knife commandeered a Cairo-bound flight shortly after take-off from Istanbul.

He surrendered to German police after the plane landed in Hamburg, Germany. None of the 46 passengers on board were harmed.

In October 1998, Turkish special forces freed passengers and crew on board a Turkish Airlines plane after a seven-hour stand-off at Ankara airport.

The hijacker, who was armed with a hand grenade and a gun, was shot dead.

The security forces said he was a left-wing militant protesting at the war with the Kurds in south-east Turkey.

The hijackings have prompted the Turkish authorities to improve airline security.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Johnny Dymond
"The demand is that the plane be refuelled and flown on to Berlin"



SEE ALSO:
Turkish hijack concludes
07 Feb 03 |  Europe
History of airliner hijackings
03 Oct 01 |  In Depth
Hijacks mar Turkey security claims
15 Mar 01 |  Middle East



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