April 10, 2007 / 4:43 PM / 12 years ago

Hijacker of Turkish plane surrenders

ANKARA (Reuters) - A Turkish man hijacked a commercial passenger plane on Tuesday flying from the mainly Kurdish southeastern city of Diyarbakir but then gave himself up to the authorities, an Ankara airport official said.

Turkish special police team members stand guard around a Pegasus Airlines aircraft at Esenboga Airport in Ankara, April 10, 2007. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

“The hijacker has surrendered,” the official told Reuters, on condition of anonymity.

Police believe the hijacker acted from personal, not political motives, and may be mentally ill, the official added.

The state-run Anatolian news agency identified him as Mehmet Goksin Gol, an unemployed man from Diyarbakir with a drug-related criminal record. CNN Turk television said he was believed to have taken drugs before boarding the flight.

“When he got up he said he had a bomb and he wanted to go to Iran,” passenger Firat Keles told CNN Turk of the hijacker, who was aged about 40.

The Pegasus Airlines plane had been carrying 178 passengers from the southeast city of Diyarbakir to Istanbul.

Special forces boarded the plane at Ankara airport to check whether the man had any accomplices before allowing passengers to disembark, the airport official said.

Officials denied an earlier media report that a woman had also been arrested in connection with the incident.

The hijacking comes six months after a Turkish man hijacked a Turkish Airlines flight on its way from Tirana, Albania, to Istanbul. It was diverted to Italy.

Turkish security forces have been battling Kurdish separatist rebels in the southeast region for decades in a conflict that has claimed more than 30,000 lives. Clashes have increased in recent days.

Additional reporting by Daren Butler in Istanbul

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