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Turkey

Turkish authorities thwart attempt to divert hijacked passenger plane to Sochi

Turkish authorities are questioning a man who attempted to divert an Istanbul-bound flight to Sochi, where the Winter Olympics are being held. The hijacker claimed to have a bomb, although no device has been found.

Turkey's security forces seized the 45-year-old Ukranian man on Friday who attempted to hijack the plane, demanding it be taken to Sochi.

Turkey scrambled F-16 fighter jets to guide in the flight, which originated in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, to Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport.

The 110-passenger Pegasus Airlines flight touched down safely at around 6:00 p.m. (1600 UTC) and security forces began inspecting the plane, according a Transport Ministry statement.

"None of the passengers were harmed and a successful operation was carried out," Istanbul governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu told reporters.

"[The suspect] was captured as a result of a struggle without the need to use any weapons. The hijacker was slightly wounded," he said.

He added that the suspect was found to have a small bag containing electric goods, but no bomb.

Hijack alert signaled

During the flight, the suspect rose from his seat, shouted there was a bomb on board and tried to enter the locked cockpit, Transport Ministry undersecretary Habib Soluk told NTV. The pilot then triggered a hijacking signal and the airport was put on high alert.

"The man was made to believe the plane was heading to Sochi," said Soluk.

Upon landing, the plane was taken to a secure area of the airport. Service at Sabhia Gokcen was initially suspended but later resumed.

The motivation of the suspect remains unknown.

Pegasus Airlines, a low-budget Turkish carrier headquartered in Istanbul, confirmed via a statement there had been a "bomb threat" on the flight from Kharkiv.

Sochi, Russia is the site of this year's Winter Olympics. News of the attempted hijacking broke just as the Games' opening ceremony was getting underway. The Black Sea resort city has been on high alert for potential security threats during the Olympics, which run from February 7-23.

dr,ccp/ph (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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