Turkish Airliner Hijacked on Way from Cyprus to Istanbul
STANBUL, Turkey — Hijackers claiming to have bombs and to be members of Al Qaeda hijacked a Turkish passenger plane on Saturday as it was heading from northern Cyprus to Istanbul, officials and passengers said.
The hijackers had asked that the Atlastjet Airlines plane be diverted to Iran or Syria but the pilots landed the plane at Antalya airport in southwestern Turkey, said Tuncay Doganer, CEO of Atlasjet.
Most of the passengers managed to escape from the rear exit of the plane while the hijackers were releasing the women from the front exit, one passenger told the private Turkish television station NTV.
Doganer said only crew and "a small number" of passengers were left on board. CNN-Turk television said two crew — possibly the pilots — and nine passengers were still inside.
It was not clear how many hijackers were on board. The passenger, who was not identified, said the hijackers were speaking Arabic among themselves.
Doganer said there were 136 passengers on board when the plane left Ercan airport in Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus.
Another passenger said anti-terror teams surrounded the plane.
Cyprus has been divided between a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish-occupied north since 1974, when Turkey invaded after an abortive Athens-backed coup by supporters of union with Greece.