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Turkish hijackers surrender in Cologne, no one hurt

June 9, 1997

COLOGNE, Germany (AP) _ Two Turkish men hijacked an Istanbul-bound jet today to show their support for the Turk who shot Pope John Paul II, then surrendered at Cologne’s airport and freed the 78 people on board.

The two men gave up their weapons and left the Boeing 737 at 7:40 a.m., nearly three hours after the plane landed in Cologne after being diverted on a flight from Malta, an airport spokesman said.

``The two kidnappers came out of the airplane with their hands up and surrendered to police,″ spokesman Wolfgang Klapdor said.

Five passengers, including an elderly woman with heart trouble, were released about an hour after the Air Malta plane landed. None of the passengers or crew members were hurt.

One hijacker had claimed to have a bomb, but police said it was a fake.

Police identified the suspects only as Ismail B., 25, and Nosret A., 24.

Police initially said the men had demanded freedom for Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turk who is serving a life sentence in Italy for shooting the pope in 1981. However, police officer Ulrich Granitzka later told reporters that the hijackers had only wished to make ``a statement of solidarity″ so that Agca would know ``he has not been abandoned.″

Police spokesman Werner Schmidt said they had demanded to speak to reporters to publicize their support for Agca, but the standoff ended before any interview was arranged.

In a note to the ANSA news agency, Agca declared he had no connection to the hijacking and said he never would have accepted freedom with the ``mediation of terrorists,″ the agency said.

Cologne police spokesman Theo Reinke said an arrest warrant was pending in Germany for one of the hijackers. He said he had no further details.

The Air Malta jet had left Malta with six crew and 74 passengers: 17 Turks, including the two hijackers, 32 Libyans, 22 Maltese, a Russian, an American and a German.

The passengers were taken to a lounge at the airport.

Police had carried out negotiations with just one of the hijackers and initially believed he was acting alone.

Update hourly