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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 August 2007, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
Turkish hijacking ends peacefully
TV grab showing passengers escaping from plane - 18/07/08
Passengers jumped from the plane's exits

Two men who tried to hijack a Turkish plane have surrendered after all 136 passengers and crew escaped unharmed.

The Atlas Jet plane was flying from Northern Cyprus to Istanbul when the two men tried to divert it to Iran.

Instead, the pilot landed the plane in the southern city of Antalya, claiming it needed refuelling.

Turkey's interior ministry said one of the hijackers was a Turkish national and the other had a Syrian passport. Their motives are not yet known.

Earlier, Turkish Cypriot officials said the two men were Iranian nationals protesting against actions of the United States.

The hijackers announced after the plane landed that women and children could leave.

But when the emergency exits were opened almost everyone rushed out, the BBC's Turkey correspondent Sarah Rainsford reports.

Many leapt from the wing of the plane to safety.

The two pilots also jumped from the cockpit on the tarmac, in order to avoid having to fly the plane to Tehran.

Eventually all passengers and crew members were released unharmed and the hijackers surrendered.

They are being questioned by interior ministry officials.

Passengers spoke of their panic as the hijack began, when, they said, the pilot appeared for a moment to lose control of the plane.

Not uncommon

The men are not thought to have had guns, though passengers described a suspect package that might have been a bomb.

Turkey map

Officials in northern Cyprus say their security checks are up to international standards and so far they have no reason to believe there were explosives on board.

An official from the airline, Atlas Jet, said that there were 136 passengers and six crew on the plane when it left Ercan Airport in Northern Cyprus.

Shortly afterwards two men tried to forced their way into the cockpit.

When they did not succeed, the men asked to be flown to Iran, but the plane landed in Antalya, after the pilot claimed it needed refuelling.

Plane hijacks and bomb threats are not uncommon in Turkey, where a number of radical groups - ranging from Kurdish separatists to far-left militants - operate.

In the last 18 months several such incidents have been defused without any passengers being harmed.


SEE ALSO
In pictures: Turkey hijack attempt
18 Aug 07 |  In Pictures
Country profile: Turkey
24 Jul 07 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Turkey
24 Jul 07 |  Country profiles

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