Sochi security concerns have been a central issue regarding this year’s Russian-held Winter Olympic Games, and for good measure. A Sochi related hijacking has reportedly been thwarted as a Turkey-bound aircraft was the target of a hijacker claiming that a bomb was aboard, and that he wanted the plane to land in Sochi instead of its Turkish destination.
The plane, a Pegasus passenger jet, landed in Istanbul Friday after a passenger attempted a hijacking with claims that a bomb was onboard and that he wanted the plane to land in Sochi. An F-16 was reportedly scrambled by Turkey to deal with the threat. The plane which was headed to Sabiha Gokcen, in Turkey, was the target of the passenger who attempted to divert the plane to Sochi by wielding a detonator and making serious threats. The passenger was reportedly of Ukranian nationality, however Ukrainian and Turkish officials have yet to officially release his identity.
The aircraft, which departed from the Ukranian city of Kharkov, was accompanied by the fighter jet until it landed safely in Istanbul. The details regarding why the hijacker wanted to divert the plane to Sochi are yet unreported. According to officials, Turkish security forces were inspecting the aircraft shortly after its landing. The passenger that attempted the hijacking, who also was reportedly drunk on the flight, was calmed down by the flight crew and eventually allowed the plane to land in Turkey where it is currently being inspected.
The detonator brandishing would-be hijacker was detained by security forces upon the aircrafts safe landing, however reports regarding conclusions from questioning have yet to be released. The Pegasus airliner was carrying 110 souls onboard, none of which have been reported injured as a result of the ordeal. According to Habib Soluk, deputy Turkish transport minister, officials believe that the aircraft was hijacked before it actually entered Turkish skies, and investigators are “sure that he didn’t enter the cockpit.”
As the Ukrainian suspected hijacker attempted to enter cockpit is when the Pegasus Pilot hit the hijack alert which resulted in the fighter jet being scrambled. It has been reported that an image of the hijacker has been released to the public. Currently unconfirmed is whether or not any explosives were actually found anywhere on the aircraft which the man attempted to divert to Sochi.
Gurcan Manti, head of Turkey’s main pilot’s union, stated that he has received confirmation regarding the health and safety of all the passengers, and that the pilot flying the plane was a capable operator and friend of his. The US National Security Council has stated that it is “monitoring the situation,” and is in contact with the Turkish government regarding the matter.
The reported hijacking attempt has transpired amid heightened security concerns for the Sochi Olympic Games. Recntly, Ukraine, Russia, the EU, and the US have been embroiled in giant game of political tug-of-war regarding the fate of Ukraine. It is unclear whether or not the recent issues transpiring in Kiev had anything to do with the Ukrainian passengers attempted hijacking.
Amid heightened security concerns however, the Sochi related hijacking of the Turkey bound aircraft is sure to keep security personnel on their toes throughout the Winter Games.
By Daniel Worku