Hijacker 'al-Qaeda trained'


Summary

They wanted to be flown to Iran and to join al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported today.

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The two men, wielding a fake bomb and claiming al-Qaeda ties, hijacked the plane early Saturday after it took off from northern Cyprus, and held passengers and crew hostage for more than four hours before surrendering peacefully at the Turkish Mediterranean resort Antalya.

Police said the 33-year-old Eyptian, Mommen Abdul Aziz Talikh, had also served time at the same prison in Saudi Arabia with a senior al-Qaeda member, called Ahmad, who was sentenced to life in prison for helping to organise the September 11 attacks, Anatolia said.

Police did not say at which al-Qaeda camp or which country Talikh received training, the agency said.

Police also did not say why Talikh was jailed in Saudi Arabia.

Police said Talikh, who is of Palestinian origin, was born in Cairo and his family was still living in Saudi Arabia.

His alleged accomplice, Mehmet Resat Ozlu, was from Turkey's south-eastern city of Sanliurfa.

Turks who have joined al-Qaeda

Dozens of Turks have joined al-Qaeda in Afghanistan or Iraq, police have said.

Suicide bombers linked to al-Qaeda hit Istanbul in 2003, killing 58 people in attacks that targeted two synagogues, the British Consulate and a British bank.

In February, a court sentenced seven people to life in prison for the bombings.

The two hijackers had met in northern Cyprus a year ago and were living together at the same house for a month, police said.

Ozlu was registered at the literature department of a university in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in northern Cyprus, Anatolia said.

Police said, during their interrogation, the two suspects confessed that they wanted to divert the plane to Iran and travel to Afghanistan to join the "jihad".

The men were among 136 passengers on board an Atlasjet flight that departed yesterday morning from Ercan in Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus.

Six crew members were on the flight.

The suspects told police during initial questioning that they tried to storm the cockpit shortly after takeoff, Antalya Governor Alaaddin Yuksel said.

Passengers said they failed to break the door down.

Police said the men had not been armed with explosives, and that Talikh was carrying a bomb-shaped play dough pack on his body when he surrendered, Anatolia said.

Five hijackings in four years

It was the fifth hijacking or hijacking attempt of a Turkish plane in four years by people falsely claiming to be carrying explosives or arms – despite increased security at airports following the September 11 attacks in the United States.

Police questioned two passengers on suspicion of ties to the hijackers, but released them after concluding that they were not linked, Anatolia said.

The hijackers allowed the women and children get off the plane.

A group of men escaped by breaking down the rear emergency exit.

Six of the passengers were injured when they jumped onto the tarmac from the back of the plane, including a man who broke his pelvic bone.


They wanted to be flown to Iran and to join al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported today.

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The two men, wielding a fake bomb and claiming al-Qaeda ties, hijacked the plane early Saturday after it took off from northern Cyprus, and held passengers and crew hostage for more than four hours before surrendering peacefully at the Turkish Mediterranean resort Antalya.

Police said the 33-year-old Eyptian, Mommen Abdul Aziz Talikh, had also served time at the same prison in Saudi Arabia with a senior al-Qaeda member, called Ahmad, who was sentenced to life in prison for helping to organise the September 11 attacks, Anatolia said.

Police did not say at which al-Qaeda camp or which country Talikh received training, the agency said.

Police also did not say why Talikh was jailed in Saudi Arabia.

Police said Talikh, who is of Palestinian origin, was born in Cairo and his family was still living in Saudi Arabia.

His alleged accomplice, Mehmet Resat Ozlu, was from Turkey's south-eastern city of Sanliurfa.

Turks who have joined al-Qaeda

Dozens of Turks have joined al-Qaeda in Afghanistan or Iraq, police have said.

Suicide bombers linked to al-Qaeda hit Istanbul in 2003, killing 58 people in attacks that targeted two synagogues, the British Consulate and a British bank.

In February, a court sentenced seven people to life in prison for the bombings.

The two hijackers had met in northern Cyprus a year ago and were living together at the same house for a month, police said.

Ozlu was registered at the literature department of a university in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in northern Cyprus, Anatolia said.

Police said, during their interrogation, the two suspects confessed that they wanted to divert the plane to Iran and travel to Afghanistan to join the "jihad".

The men were among 136 passengers on board an Atlasjet flight that departed yesterday morning from Ercan in Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus.

Six crew members were on the flight.

The suspects told police during initial questioning that they tried to storm the cockpit shortly after takeoff, Antalya Governor Alaaddin Yuksel said.

Passengers said they failed to break the door down.

Police said the men had not been armed with explosives, and that Talikh was carrying a bomb-shaped play dough pack on his body when he surrendered, Anatolia said.

Five hijackings in four years

It was the fifth hijacking or hijacking attempt of a Turkish plane in four years by people falsely claiming to be carrying explosives or arms – despite increased security at airports following the September 11 attacks in the United States.

Police questioned two passengers on suspicion of ties to the hijackers, but released them after concluding that they were not linked, Anatolia said.

The hijackers allowed the women and children get off the plane.

A group of men escaped by breaking down the rear emergency exit.

Six of the passengers were injured when they jumped onto the tarmac from the back of the plane, including a man who broke his pelvic bone.