Hijackers arrested, Turkey drama ends without bloodshed


Istanbul : The two hijackers of an Atlasjet plane surrendered Saturday after releasing their final hostages.

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The two men were immediately arrested in a development ending the hijacking drama without bloodshed.

Media reports said the two hijackers were a Turkish national identified as Mehmet Ozlu and a Palestinian, Muhammed Asis.

The developments ended a several-hour standoff after the plane had been hijacked following its takeoff from Ercan in Northern Cyprus, on a flight destined for Istanbul.

The hijackers had demanded that the plane be flown to Tehran, but instead it landed at the southern Turkish coastal city of Antalya with the official reason given as lack of fuel.

In an initial development, the hijackers let most of the 136 passengers, mainly children and elderly, to depart the plane.

But while that was going on, the pilot also managed to escape, leaving the aircraft with no one to fly it. The hijackers, still holding four passengers and two crewmembers, demanded a replacement crew.

Turkish television said negotiations with the two hijackers were difficult, as meanwhile Turkey despatched a special police force to Antalya and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul personally took over the crisis management to deal with the hijacking.

According to reports, passengers who were freed told how the hijackers had said they belonged to the Al Qaeda network.

The men were armed with at least one knife and said they had a bomb.

Atlasjet chairman Tuncay Doganer said the hijackers had not managed to force their way into the cockpit.