Syrian Hijacker Overcome By Turkish Security Men
ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) _ Security men disguised as airline employees sneaked aboard a hijacked Lufthansa jet in Istanbul and overpowered a Syrian hijacker armed with a knife and a broken bottle, authorities said.
The hijacker freed the 142 other passengers and five of the eight crew members an hour after the Boeing 727 landed at Istanbul’s Yesilkoy airport, but held the other three crew members hostage until his capture Wednesday.
The Istanbul public prosecutor, Nabi Koker, identified the hijacker as Marwan Hritani, 35, a Syrian geologist with a good command of German. He said none of the passengers and crew was harmed, including the three held hostage.
Koker said six security agents wearing Lufthansa uniforms entered through an emergency exit in the rear and captured the hijacker slightly more than two hours after the plane landed.
The state radio said authorities had rejected the hijacker’s demand that the plane be refueled.
Koker said he was not sure sure of the hijacker’s motive. He said Hritani told him he was ″trying to express the opinions of the Arab world″ and described his action as ″purely individual.″
The semi-official Anatolia news agency quoted security officials as saying the Syrian chain-smoked and drank beer while he was in charge of the plane, and appeared drunk when their men seized him.
Hritani faces trial in a Turkish court. Aircraft hijacking carries a minimum penalty of 10 years in prison under Turkish law.
Lufthansa spokesman Lutz Laemmershold said in Frankfurt that the West German airline was sending another crew to Istanbul, to fly the passengers to Athens on Thursday morning.
Lufthansa officials said the jet was diverted one hour and 25 minutes after it left Munich, West Germany, and an hour before it was due in Athens. They said the man had demanded to be flown to Libya.
Another Lufthansa Boeing 727 was hijacked Feb. 27 on a flight from Frankfurt to Damascus, the capital of Syria, by two Syrians being deported from West Germany. The plane landed in Vienna, where the two released all 33 passengers but held eight crew for nearly five hours before they surrendered.
The hijackers said they feared death sentences in Syria and demanded asylum in Austria.
Austrian officials said at the time that they would be tried under Austrian law for the hijacking. They were being deported from West Berlin for criminal offenses that were not disclosed.