Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Turks Hijack Plane To Protest Pope's Visit

ABC News - A Turkish Airlines plane carrying more than 100 passengers from Tirana, Albania, to Istanbul, was hijacked Tuesday to protest the pope's upcoming visit to Turkey and landed at Italy's Brindisi airport, Turkish and Italian officials said.

The plane was hijacked in Greek airspace, company spokesman Ali Genc said.

Turkish television channel NTV, quoting unnamed security officials, reported that the plane was hijacked by two Turks to protest Pope Benedict XVI's planned visit to Turkey next month.

A spokesman for the Greek military's general staff told The Associated Press that four Greek fighter jets had been scrambled to shadow the plane after it issued a distress signal over Greek airspace.

The plane contacted Italian air traffic controllers about 5:25 p.m. and asked to land in Brindisi, according to Nicoletta Tomiselli, a spokeswoman for the Italian air traffic agency ENAV.

She said the aircraft, carrying 113 people, was escorted to the ground by two Italian military planes.

"We don't know what the situation is yet," she said.

Genc, the Turkish Airlines' spokesman, said there were 107 on board. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.

The Vatican has been going ahead with plans for the trip and a Vatican official, asked about the hijacking, said he expected no changes in the pope's plans for the visit. The official, who asked that his name not be used because of the sensitivity of the issue, said an official Vatican announcement that the trip would take place Nov. 28-Dec. 1 would be made soon.