ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A passenger on board an Istanbul-bound flight Friday claimed there was a bomb on board and tried to hijack the plane to Sochi, Russia, where the Olympics are kicking off, an official said.
The plane from Kharkov, Ukraine, landed safely at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport, but 110 passengers are still on board and authorities are trying to convince the alleged hijacker to give himself up, Habib Soluk, the country’s Transport Ministry undersecretary, told NTV television. The station reported the man had been subdued, but there was no immediate confirmation of that.
Soluk said the man rose from his seat, shouted that there was bomb on board and tried to enter the locked cockpit. The pilot signaled that there was a hijack attempt and the airport was placed on high alert.
Pegasus Airlines confirmed in a brief statement that there was a “bomb threat” aboard their flight from Kharkov.
With about 100,000 police, security agents and army troops flooding Sochi, Russia has pledged to ensure “the safest Olympics in history.” But terror fears fueled by recent suicide bombings have left athletes, spectators and officials worldwide jittery about potential threats.
Security experts warn that Islamic militants in the Caucasus, who have threatened to derail the Winter Games that run from Feb. 7-23, could achieve their goal by choosing soft targets away from the Olympic sites or even outside Sochi.
The back-to-back December suicide bombings of a railway station and a bus in Volgograd, about 640 kilometers (400 miles) east of Sochi, killed 34 people and demonstrated the militants’ ability to strike with shocking ease. A jihadist group in Dagestan, the epicenter of the Islamic rebellion against Russia that has engulfed the Caucasus, claimed responsibility for the Volgograd bombings and has threatened to strike Sochi.