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Last Updated:  Saturday, 29 March, 2003, 06:14 GMT
Turkish hijack ends peacefully
Hijacked Turkish Airlines Flight TK160  in Athens
A family dispute may have provoked the hijacking

A hijacker who seized a packed Turkish Airlines plane has been arrested at Athens international airport, after all the passengers and crew were released unharmed.

Buses ferried the passengers off the plane following negotiations involving Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Greek officials.

Turkish and Greek officials said that the hijacker, a 20-year-old Turkish national, appeared to have emotional problems, possibly connected to a family dispute.

Police found no trace of explosives or a weapon after initial reports that he was carrying a bomb when he seized the internal Turkish flight.

He had been demanding that the plane fly on to Germany after a refuelling stop in the Greek capital.

After releasing all of the passengers, he reportedly tried to keep the pilots aboard but finally surrendered.

Nurse waits with relatives at Istanbul airport
The five-hour crisis frayed the nerves of passengers' families
"They've got him," a police spokesman told Reuters news agency. "He's under arrest. The pilots are out. It's over."

The detained man, named by police as Ozgur Gencaslas, commandeered the Airbus 310 jet whilst it was on an internal Turkish flight from Istanbul to Ankara and was thought to be protesting at a family dispute.

Some passengers were heard laughing with relief after their five-hour ordeal as they boarded the buses heading towards the terminal.

A second Turkish airliner has reportedly arrived at the airport to bring the hijacked passengers home.

'Candlesticks'

There were 205 people on board the plane - 196 passengers and nine crew - and among them were two members of the governing party and one opposition member of parliament.

Turkish police said the 20-year-old hijacker had been hoping to fly to Germany to join his birth father after a dispute with his stepfather in Turkey, who was allegedly barring him from seeing his mother and sister living in the east of the country.

He did not appear to be tied to any terrorist organisation, they said.

The Governor of Istanbul, Muammer Guler, said the hijacker had appeared "depressed" and Greek Deputy Transport Minister Manolis Stratakis described him as "apparently unstable".

The hijacker was spotted carrying five "candlesticks" as he boarded the plane. In a previous hijacking, candles were used to imitate explosives.

One passenger who spoke by phone to Turkish TV reported that the man had entered the cockpit.

"The hostess told us that a male hijacker was in the cockpit, and said he had strapped bombs onto his body," he said.

German destination

Flight TK160, a routine link between Turkey's two main cities, was reported hijacked soon after take-off at 2000 GMT on Friday.

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

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.

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

Greece has spent months training a special anti-terrorist squad to deal with hijackings and other terrorism ahead of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Panos Polyzoidis
"We do not know anything concrete about the motive"



SEE ALSO:
History of airliner hijackings
03 Oct 01 |  In Depth
Hijacks mar Turkey security claims
15 Mar 01 |  Middle East


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