A Ukrainian man tried to hijack a Turkey-bound flight to Sochi, Russia, as the Winter Olympics were kicking off Friday, but the pilot tricked him and landed in Istanbul instead, where he was stealthily detained after a four-hour stand-off on a plane full of passengers, an official said.
The hijacking drama came as the Winter Olympics opened in the Russian resort city, with thousands of athletes from around the world pouring into the tightly secured stadium amid warnings the games could be a terrorism target.
A Turkish F-16 fighter was scrambled as soon as the pilot on the Pegasus Airlines flight from Kharkiv, Ukraine, with 110 passengers aboard signalled there was a hijacking attempt, according to NTV television. It escorted the plane safely to its original destination at Sabiha Gokcen airport in Istanbul.
"Through a very successful implementation by our pilot and crew, the plane was landed in Istanbul instead of Sochi," Istanbul governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu told reporters at the airport. "He thought it was going to Sochi but after a while he realized that (the plane) was in Istanbul."
The man's motive was unclear, but Mutlu said he had "requests concerning his own country" and wanted to relay a "message concerning sporting activities in Sochi." Mutlu said there was no immediate indication that the man was a member of any terror organization and Mutlu did not give his name.
"We were receiving through various channels information that there could be initiatives to sabotage the spirit of peace arising in Sochi, but we are saddened that such an event took place in our city," Mutlu said.