Iran Denounces Hijacking of Turkish Plane

A009056818.jpgIranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Mohammed Ali Hosseini Saturday denounced the hijacking of a Turkish passenger plane this morning, saying that the Islamic Republic would not issue the landing permission for the hijacked plane under any conditions. “The hijacked plane had nothing to do with the Islamic Republic and we denounce hijacking,” Hosseini said according to a statement released by the Foreign Ministry’s Information and Press Bureau.

He also said that the Islamic Republic officials are now cooperating with their Turkish counterparts to identify the hijackers.

The spokesman further dismissed initial reports alleging that hijackers had demanded to head for Iran, saying, “None of the relevant authorities have received any such request, and these reports are fabricated and unfounded.”

“Moreover, the Islamic Republic of Iran would not basically issue the landing permission for the hijacked plane,” the foreign ministry spokesman concluded.

A Turkish plane, belonging to the private Atlas-Jet airline company, was hijacked by two men en route from Cyprus to Istanbul Saturday morning.

Hijackers claimed to have a bomb and to be members of the al-Qaeda.

Early reports alleged that the hijackers had asked that the plane be diverted to Iran or Syria but the pilots landed the plane at Antalya airport, near Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.

Most of the passengers managed to escape from the rear exit of the plane while the hijackers were releasing the women and children from the front exit, passengers who left the aircraft told private NTV television.

According to the Turkish officials, only crew and “a small number” of passengers were left on board before the hijackers surrendered.

Passengers said there were two hijackers on board and that they spoke Arabic between themselves.

There were 136 passengers on board when the plane left Ercan airport in Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus at 6:45 am. The plane landed at Antalya airport about an hour later.

One passenger, Erhan Erkul, told NTV television that the hijackers ran toward the cockpit shortly after takeoff, tried to break down the door but failed.

“They claimed to have bombs,” Erkul said.

Erkul said the hijackers were from al-Qaeda, but another passenger said the hijackers did not make any announcement about who they were.

Media reports coming from Turkey said the two men were Palestinian and Turkish.

A woman, who was not identified, said the hijackers allowed the crew to serve water to the passengers, promising that they would not hurt them.

Later in the day, Turkish officials reported that the hijackers had surrendered.

“Terrorists have been detained and the case is dismissed,” deputy governor of Antalya, Kheyroddin Balchi Oghlou said.

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