UPDATED: A Turkish Airlines flight from Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen was the target of an attempted hijacking Wednesday night. A man on board the flight to Istanbul, who reportedly had sought permanent residence permission in Norway several times, claimed he had a bomb and tried to get into the cockpit.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that there were around 60 passengers on board the airline’s Boeing 737-800 jet, and that the drama in the skies began about an hour before the flight was to land in Istanbul.
Lingered in the lavatory
Turkish media quoted passengers as saying that the hijacker had spent about a half-hour in a lavatory on board the jet before he emerged wearing a dark ski mask, dark clothing and yelling, while holding up a mobile telephone, that he had a bomb strapped to his body. He reportedly demanded that the plane turn around and head back to Oslo and he tried to enter the cockpit, but was restrained by crew members.
The hijacker was ultimately overmanned by two passengers, one from Norway and one from Turkey, reported NRK. Jo Kobro, a spokesman for the airport at Gardermoen who had confirmed the hijacking attempt to NRK Wednesday night, said no explosives were used or found.
The flight ended up landing safely at Atatürk Airport in Istanbul and the would-be hijacker was taken into custody by Turkish police “without any further drama,” Kobro said.
Ordered into brace position
One passenger on board the flight, Salim Tahar, told TV2 that the man had been sitting at the rear of the aircraft before donning the mask and threatening to blow up the jet. The Hürriyet Daily News (external link), an online English news service in Turkey, reported that he tried to break into the cockpit while the aircraft was over Bulgaria.
Another passenger, Jan Svensen, told NRK that “after we’d been flying for around two hours, many passengers began to move forward in the cabin. I didn’t understand what was happening, but after five minutes, I saw a man standing up in the aisle in the back of the flight.”
Passengers were then ordered by crew to sit down and put their heads between their legs. “I thought, damn, now he’s blowing up the plane,” Svensen said.
Reported psychiatric problems
That didn’t happen and passengers were safely evacuated from the flight after it landed in Istanbul. A spokesman for TAV Airports, which operates the airport at Istanbul, described the would-be hijacker as “drunk and crazy.”
Turkish media reported Thursday that the man, originally from a Kurdish area of Turkey, has psychiatric problems. Newspaper Avisa Hordaland reported that he’d most recently been living in the mountain town of Voss in western Norway and last summer had gone on a hunger strike in an effort to secure permanent residence.
Norwegian Transportation Minister Magnhild Meltveit Kleppa told NRK Thursday morning that police in both countries would pursue the incident and she was relieved it ended with no injuries.