Russian plane hijacked


A Russian airliner carrying more than 160 people was hijacked by two people claiming to be Chechens after taking off from Istanbul on Thursday and at least one person was injured, Turkey’s transport minister said.

The Russian news agency RIA quoted Qatar-based al-Jazeera satellite television as saying that the plane had landed at Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

Turkish Transport Minister Enis Oksuz told NTV television: “The plane with 162 passengers was hijacked by two passengers who introduced themselves as Chechen.”

“There is one person injured, who was stabbed. There is no further information about any other weapons,” the minister said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the creation of a special crisis team of top officials to deal with the hijack, the Kremlin said.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said the plane belonged to Russia’s Vnukovo Airlines company and was a charter flight with 166 people on board.

Russia’s state-owned RTR television said the plane was a Tupolev 154 airliner, a medium-range jet.

Turkey’s Oksuz said the aircraft reported it had been hijacked at 1.57 p.m. (1157 GMT). Shortly afterwards one member of the crew was slightly injured in a struggle.

The plane lost 400 meters (1300 feet) in altitude at one point but there was no danger from that, he said. “There are claims that bombs are on board, but it’s not possible to say whether there are bombs or not,” Oksuz said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the hijack and there was no confirmation the hijackers were Chechens.

Russia is waging its second military campaign in breakaway Chechnya in four years, fighting mainly Muslim rebels. During the first war, pro-Chechen gunmen linked to the rebels briefly hijacked a boat off the Turkish coast in 1996.

Security at Turkish airports can be uneven. Four planes were hijacked in Turkish airspace in 1998 and 1999.

Past hijackers have included Kurdish rebel sympathisers and Islamic militants.