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Turkish Flight Hijacker Captured

February 25, 1998

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Security forces disguised as caterers entered a Turkish Airlines plane Wednesday and seized a Cypriot hijacker who had demanded to be flown to Iran, television stations reported.

No one was harmed during the raid, launched after the hijacker refused to surrender, private NTV and ATV televisions said.

The hijacker, who claimed to be carrying a bomb in a teddy bear, hijacked the plane shortly after it took off from the southern city of Adana on Tuesday night.

He released 21 of the 62 passengers after landing in the Kurdish-dominated southeastern city of Diyarbakir. There were also five crew members aboard the plane.

The hijacker was a Cypriot, apparently from the northern half of the divided island, airline chief Yusuf Bolayirli was quoted by NTV as saying.

``I’m a martyr of God,″ State Minister Refaiddin Sahin quoted the hijacker as saying to the security forces.

Passengers said the hijacker appeared to be in his 30s.

One of the released passengers said the hijacker had ordered alcoholic beverages not to be served on the plane. Drinking alcohol is forbidden in Islam.

The rescue operation began soon after the officials refused to refuel the RJ-100 aircraft.

The plane was originally on a flight to the Turkish capital, Ankara, about 250 miles to the northwest.

Diyarbakir is the main city of the troubled, Kurdish-dominated southeastern region, where Kurdish rebels have been fighting for autonomy since 1984.

About 37,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

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