ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – A drunken man claiming to have a bomb tried to hijack a Russian-bound Turkish Airlines plane on Wednesday but was quickly overpowered by fellow passengers, officials said.
Russian transport police detained him after the plane landed safely in St. Petersburg, prosecutor Alexander Bebenin told reporters at the city’s Pulkovo airport.
No explosives were found on the passenger or the plane, he said.
Bebenin said the man had threatened to blow up the plane if his demands of diverting the flight to Strasbourg, France, were not met. Passengers overpowered him after he had handed a note to attendants with his demands, he said.
“The hijacker gave a note to the head steward saying he had a bomb,” Turkish Airlines Chief Executive Temel Kotil told Reuters. “After that, the captain and crew acted in accordance with civil aviation procedure.”
Nobody was injured, he added.
The man, whose identity has not been disclosed, is a native of Uzbekistan, Turkish and Russian officials have said. Bebenin said he was a Russian citizen but the head of Turkey’s civil aviation authority, Ali Ariduru, said in remarks televised in Russia that he was an Uzbek citizen.
“It is said that he was drunk and that he had carried out this act under the influence of alcohol,” Ariduru was quoted as saying.
The plane departed from Turkey’s Mediterranean resort city of Antalya. Most of the 164 passengers aboard the flight — mostly Russian tourists — were unaware of the hijack attempt and only found out on emerging from the plane after a two-hour wait on the tarmac, Bebenin said.
“We didn’t see anything on board, and we knew nothing about the problems,” said Aleftina, one of the passengers of the plane — who refused to give her last name — on leaving the airport.
“We realized that there was something wrong with our flight when we landed and they asked us to stay at our seats,” she said, adding that passengers’ belongings were searched.
Hijackings are not rare in Turkey, where a number of radical groups ranging from Kurdish separatists to far-left militants operate. Several incidents in the past two years have ended without casualties.
Late last year two men hijacked a Turkish airliner heading for Istanbul from northern Cyprus, but gave themselves up and released their hostages after forcing the plane to land in southern Turkey.