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Tuesday, October 19, 1999 Published at 22:17 GMT 23:17 UK

World: Middle East

Hijacking over in Hamburg

The plane was diverted to Hamburg after leaving Istanbul

Police at Hamburg airport say they have arrested the man who hijacked an EgyptAir plane with more than 50 people on board.

[ image:  ]
The hijacker, said to be a Turk seeking political asylum, gave himself up without a struggle.

EgyptAir said he had used a knife taken from one of the plane's first class meals to carry out the hijacking.

A police spokesman said a second person was also briefly detained and the 54 passengers and crew were safe.

The BBC's Clare Finnigan: "The passengers are reported to be safe"
Passengers were taken off the plane and led to the terminal.

The plane, which took off from Istanbul's Ataturk airport and was bound for Cairo, landed in Hamburg at 2025 local time (1825 GMT) and was taken to a corner of the airport.

Turkish NTV television said an Arabic-speaking hijacker armed with a knife commandeered the plane shortly after take-off at 1816 local time (1516 GMT).

[ image: An Egyptian boy waits anxiously for news at Cairo airport]
An Egyptian boy waits anxiously for news at Cairo airport
It said the hijacker told passengers several times that he was not a terrorist or an Arab.

The chairman of Egypt Air, Sahim Rayan, told reporters at Cairo airport that the weapon was a knife taken from one of the first class meals.

The Egyptian Minister of Transport, Ibrahim Al-Dumeiri, said he understood the hijackers was a Turk who wanted political asylum abroad, though there is no confirmation of this.

They were speaking after radio contact with the pilot of the plane.

Mr Al-Dumeiri said the passengers were expected to be flown on to Egypt after they had had time to rest from their ordeal.

State of alert

The plane had initially been diverted to London, and both Gatwick and Stansted airports were also put on a state of alert to receive the airliner.

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt: "The man gave himself up"
The hijacker is said to have agreed to divert to Hamburg after being told that the plane would not have enough fuel to make the direct flight to the UK and would instead need to refuel in Germany.

EgyptAir said most of those on board were Egyptians, although there were also passengers of other nationalities.

After a series of hijacks on mostly internal flights last year, Turkey said it had stepped up security at its airports and introduced strict controls. No passengers were hurt in those incidents.

In the most recent incident, in October 1998, police stormed a plane and shot dead a lone hijacker who had proclaimed support for separatist Kurdish guerrillas fighting for self-rule in south-east Turkey.

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