Turk Surrenders After Hijacking Airliner to Italy

Oct. 3, 2006
Turkish officials said the hijacker was seeking political asylum and not a protest move against the pope.

A Turkish man hijacked a jetliner carrying 113 people from Albania to Istanbul on Tuesday and forced it to land in southern Italy, where he surrendered and released all the passengers unharmed, officials said.

Two senior Turkish officials said the hijacker was seeking political asylum.

Candan Karlitekin, chairman of Turkish Airlines' board of directors, initially said the Boeing 737-400 had been hijacked by two Turks, and that they were protesting Pope Benedict XVI's planned visit to Turkey next month.

Transport Minister Binali Yildirim told The Associated Press that the hijacker, whom he identified as Hakan Ekinci, was seeking to evade military service in his native Turkey. Istanbul Gov. Muammer Guler also said the hijacker was an army deserter who had fled to Albania.

"It has nothing to do with the pope's visit; it was a simple attempt of seeking political asylum under the influence of psychological problems," Yildirim said.

Italian authorities believed he was acting alone but were investigating whether Ekinci had an accomplice on board.