ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A Ukrainian passenger on an Istanbul-bound flight claimed Friday there was a bomb on board and tried to hijack the plane to Sochi, Russia, where the Olympics are kicking off, an official said.
The plane from Kharkiv, Ukraine, landed safely in Istanbul, but 110 passengers are still on board and authorities were trying to convince the alleged hijacker to give himself up, Habib Soluk, the Turkish Transport Ministry undersecretary, told NTV television. The station said an F-16 fighter plane was scrambled as soon as the pilot signaled there was a hijacking attempt.
The station reported the man had been subdued, but there was no immediate confirmation of that. The Interfax news agency cited the Ukrainian Security Service, the country’s main security agency, as saying the passenger who tried to hijack the plane was in a state of severe alcohol intoxication. It also said he has been pacified, and no weapons or explosives were found on him, but it was not clear where the information was coming from.
Soluk said the man rose from his seat, shouted that there was bomb on board and tried to enter the locked cockpit. The pilot signaled that there was a hijack attempt and Sabiha Gokcen airport was placed on high alert.
“The man was made to believe the plane was heading to Sochi,” Soluk said. “We are hoping that the passengers are evacuated without even a nose-bleed.”
Pegasus Airlines confirmed in a brief statement there was a “bomb threat” aboard their flight from Kharkiv.
The plane’s captain, Ilyas Karagulle, signaled that the crew was well, according to state-run TRT television.
With about 100,000 police, security agents and army troops flooding Sochi, Russia has pledged to ensure “the safest Olympics in history.” But terror fears fueled by recent suicide bombings have left athletes, spectators and officials worldwide jittery about potential threats.
Security experts warn that Islamic militants in the Caucasus, who have threatened to derail the Winter Games that run from Feb. 7-23, could achieve their goal by choosing soft targets away from the Olympic sites or even outside Sochi.
The spokeswoman for the Ukrainian Security Service could not be reached.