Sochi has once more made news in matters completely unrelated to this year’s Winter Olympic Games. Turkish officials issued an official statement that a Ukrainian citizen who was aboard an Istanbul-bound airliner made a hijacking attempt with Sochi as his destination. According to these announcements, the Ukrainian citizen stated, “there’s a bomb on this plane,” and then started issuing demands that he wanted the plane rerouted to Sochi, Russia, where the Winter Olympic Games are officially beginning.
Instead of abiding by the hijacker’s demands, the staff aboard the Pegasus Airlines Boeing 737-800 responded by sending a hijacking alert, which was received by Turkey’s Air Force Control Center at approximately 5:20 p.m. Upon hearing news of the hijacking attempt, Turkey’s Air Force Control Center sent an F-16 military jet to fly alongside the plane to ensure that plane landed safely in Istanbul rather than Sochi, Russia. After twenty minutes, reports confirmed that not one, but two F-16 military jets had intercepted the Pegasus Airlines flight over the Red Sea.
According to Habib Soluk, a Turkish Transport Ministry junior government official, Turkish authorities tried to persuade the Ukrainian suspect to give himself up upon the plane’s safe arrival at the Sabiha Gokcen airport in Istanbul. It was at this time that videos began to emerge of security personnel surrounding the Boeing 737-800 airliner in order to help the 110 passengers off the plane.
In regard to the plane and the hijacking attempt for Sochi, the Istanbul governor tweeted, “This air pirate has finally been neutralized.” In addition, the governor later tweeted, “the passengers of the hijacked plane have disembarked from the airliner without any problems.” Following his tweets concerning the hijacked plane, the Istanbul governor further elaborated on the issue during a press conference. Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu stated, ” Special forces have boarded the plane and taken the suspect into custody with swiftness, and they’ve reported that there was no bomb aboard the plane. Their operation is complete.” Mutlu then went to further comment on the suspect saying he never made it to the cockpit and was reported to have believed that the plane was headed to Sochi. In addition, the Istanbul governor noted he didn’t seem to have been under the influence of alcohol; however, there is a possibility that he was under the influence of other substances.
According to Mutlu, special forces seized a carry on bag full of electronics from the suspect once he was taken into custody.
Following the plane’s landing, news reports throughout Turkey announced that the man who was taken into custody was a Ukrainian native, who has been reported to have been seated in seat 2F of the Boeing 737-800 airliner; however, a name has not been released at this time as to the identity of the suspect.
When talking to reporters, the captain of the plane made an announcement that the staff had tricked the suspect into thinking that they had changed course for Sochi in an attempt to appease him until they could land safely in Istanbul. As for the suspect, this hijacking attempt on the plane couldn’t have come at a worse time, as Sochi has taken strict security measures in making this the safest Olympic Games due do recent terrorists threats.
By Aaron Weis