A Turkish Airlines plane headed from the Albanian capital Tirana to Istanbul was hijacked yesterday by Turkish citizen Hakan Ekinci in a dramatic incident in which no one was killed or injured. The flight, which took off yesterday late afternoon from Tirana's Rinas Airport, was carrying 107 passengers, only 5 of whom were Turks.
The actual hijacking of the airplane took place over Greek airspace, with Greek authorities alerted to the incident when Pilot Mursel Gokalp sounded the hijacking signal twice from the cockpit of Turkish Airlines flight 1476. Hijacker Ekinci demanded that the flight head for Italy, which it then did, accompanied by two Greek Air Force planes and four Italian Air Force planes. The flight landed finally at Italy's Brindisi Air Force base more than two hours after it had taken off from Tirana.
Hijacker initially claimed his act was a "protest of the Pope's visit to Turkey"
After landing at the Brindisi Air Force base, Pilot Mursel Gokalp spoke by telephone to Turkish Airlines headquarters in Turkey, noting that the hijacker was not in fact armed, but that he claimed to have a bomb on his person. He also noted that Ekinci has initially claimed that his reason for hijacking the airplane was to protest Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming visit to Turkey, although in the hours which followed, it emerged that Ekinci had deserted his miltary duty in Turkey. It also became clear during this time that Ekinci was prepared to let the passengers leave the airplane. In the meantime, Brindisi Governor Marino Tofaro arrived at the base and began bargaining with Ekinci, who requested asylum in Italy. A little while after the start of the bargaining, passengers and crew were released from the airplane, after which Hakan Ekinci gave himself up to the Italian police force at the air base.