Fri, Aug 24, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Jet hijackers with suspected ties to al-Qaeda charged

AFP , ANKARA

A Turkish court yesterday charged an Egyptian with alleged ties to al-Qaeda and a Turkish accomplice with hijacking a plane carrying more than 140 people, the Anatolia news agency said.

The court in the southern city of Antalya charged Egyptian Momen Abdul Aziz Talikh and Mehmet Resat Ozlu with "hijacking a plane, being members of an armed terrorist organization and restricting personal freedom," the report said.

Talikh, an Egyptian passport-holder of Palestinian origin, and Ozlu were sent to the local prison pending trial.

The pair on Saturday commandeered the plane operated by Turkish private carrier Atlas Jet shortly after it took off from the breakaway Turkish-held north of Cyprus for Istanbul.

Claiming they were al-Qaeda members and wielding a fake bomb made of modelling clay, the hijackers demanded the plane be diverted to Iran or Syria, but the pilots landed in Antalya saying they had to refuel.

The pilots fled from the cockpit and most of the passengers escaped from the rear door as the hijackers were releasing women and children through the front exit.

A few passengers and crew remained hostage for several hours before the hijackers were persuaded to release them and turn themselves in.

Citing police sources, Anatolia said that Talikh had been trained in an al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan in 2004 and had spent two months in a Saudi prison after being detained for participating in a rally in Yemen.

During his time in jail Talikh met several al-Qaeda members.

The agency did not specify what rally Talikh attended and when he had served time in Saudi Arabia.

Turkish police have contacted Interpol and other international organizations to get more information on Talikh and his alleged ties to al-Qaeda.

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