Turkish airliner hijacked en route to Istanbul

A Turkish plane heading for Istanbul from northern Cyprus was hijacked on Saturday, but the hijackers gave themselves up and released all hostages five hours after forcing the plane to land in Turkey.

CEO of Atlas Jet airline Tuncay Doganer confirmed that the hijack of the passenger plane, which was bringing 136 passengers from northern Cyprus’s Ercan airport, had come to an end.

The identity of the hijackers was still unclear: the transport minister of Turkish-backed breakaway northern Cyprus, Salih Usar, said they were two Iranians protesting against the United States. But Turkey’s Cihan news agency reported one was Palestinian and the other Turkish.

Soon after the plane was forced to land for refuelling — as it did not have enough fuel to go to Tehran as the hijackers wanted — most of the passengers were either released or broke out through emergency exits.

The pilots also left, but four passengers and two crew members had remained on board as negotiations took place.

Cyprus, a major tourist destination, is divided between the internationally recognised government in the south and an enclave in the north recognised only by Ankara.

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 past year or so, several incidents have been resolved without any passengers being harmed.

Turkey has warm relations with Iran. — Reuters

Additional reporting by Anil Isik in Ercan

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