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Hijacked plane in Athens
  Hijacked plane in Athens

A hijacker with explosives strapped to his body has forced a Turkish plane to land in Athens, according to reports.

The man seized the Turkish Airlines flight at 8pm GMT after taking off from Istanbul on a domestic flight to Ankara.

He is said to be demanding that the plane flies to Germany, but the Turkish foreign minister has asked Greece not to allow the plane to take off unless absolutely necessary.

Up to 203 people are thought to be on board. Reports say several senior Turkish bureaucrats are on the plane - a regular shuttle between the countries two biggest cities.

The governor of Istanbul said the hijacker, who is thought to be in his 20s, had no links to any terrorist group and appeared to be depressed.

"We definitely do not (believe) this individual is involved with a terrorist organisation. It appears this is someone who is depressed, he is saying he has some troubles with his family," Muammer Guler said in a statement.

The plane first diverted course and began heading toward the Aegean coastal city of Izmir, but it later changed began heading toward Greece, Ankara television reported.

Turkey has been hit by several hijackings in recent years.

In November 2002, Israeli security guards foiled a suspected hijacking attempt on an El Al Airlines flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul, overpowering a passenger armed with a pocket knife, witnesses said.

In October 1999, an EgyptAir Boeing 737 was hijacked when a lone hijacker demanded the plane be diverted from its journey from Istanbul to Cairo.

It landed in Hamburg where the hijacker surrendered to German police.

Last Updated: 00:31 UK, Saturday March 29, 2003
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