Archive for Sunday, March 30, 2003

Turkish prime minister helped end hijacking

March 30, 2003


— A 20-year-old man who used a razor blade and candles disguised as explosives to hijack a Turkish Airlines flight was persuaded by Turkey's prime minister to release his hostages after the plane landed in Athens.

Ozgur Gencarslan, a Turkish car mechanic, was arrested Saturday after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek police helped negotiate the release of all 204 people -- 195 passengers and nine crew members. All were unharmed.

The passengers arrived Saturday in Ankara, Turkey, where they were met by relatives and friends. Crew members flew separately to Istanbul aboard the plane that had been hijacked.

According to Turkish Transportation Minister Binali Yildirim and conversations between the pilot and control tower, Erdogan telephoned the hijacker and urged him to surrender.

"We are negotiating," the pilot told the control tower when informed that police had arrived.

"Negotiating with whom? I don't understand, please say again," the tower asked.

"We are negotiating with our prime minister," the pilot replied.

The hijacking lasted about five hours. It appears to have been motivated by problems Gencarslan was having with his family.

Greek police spokesman Lefteris Economou said Gencarslan was armed with three safety razors and pretended the candles were sticks of dynamite -- a tactic used in a hijacking last month in Istanbul.

The dozen candles were wrapped in gray paper, similar to that used for dynamite, and attached to a belt.

"He entered the cockpit and showed the captain the belt claiming it contained explosives. At the same time he threatened the co-pilot with a razor to his throat," Economou said.

Economou did not say how the hijacker managed to smuggle the razors aboard the Airbus A310 or get into the cockpit.

Gencarslan was charged in Greece with hijacking, hampering air traffic, and weapons possession. He will be arraigned next week. Turkey asked for his extradition, which could come as early as next week.

Gencarslan hijacked the plane about 25 minutes after it took off late Friday from Istanbul for Ankara.

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