An Olympic bomb threat is making headline news, as a man traveling on a plane from Ukraine reportedly used the threat of a bomb to attempt to divert the jet to Sochi, Russia. This story is developing.
Reuters is reporting today that a Boeing 737-800 passenger plane from Pegasus Airlines, escorted by an F-16 fighter jet, made an emergency landing earlier this morning in Istanbul.
“People are still inside but the pilot called security and gave them a signal that they can enter the plane. There is a translator – a Turkish man near the Ukrainian to calm him down,” one airport official said earlier today.
The unidentified man, of Ukrainian descent, reportedly threatened that a bomb he had concealed in the cargo hold would be detonated if the plane did not divert and take him to the Winter Olympics. Passengers have reported that the man was drunk. He was able to be calmed to the point where he was cooperative.
“While the plane was in the air, one of the passengers said that there was a bomb on board and asked the plane to not land in Sabiha Gokcen (in Turkey) but rather to land in Sochi,” Turkey’s Transportation Ministry official Habip Soluk said Friday.
The man was taken into custody and all 110 passengers on board the plane landed safely in Istanbul.
Official opening ceremonies for the Olympic Games began today in Sochi amid intense security against potential terror attacks.
UPDATE Feb. 8: According to CNN, the "air pilot" as dubbed by Istanbul's Gov. Huseyin Avni Mutlu, disputed the passengers' claims that the man had drank excessively while on board the flight, but did concede that "he may have used some other substances."
Officials have reported that the man evidently thought he was on a plane for Sochi, then became irate when he learned the flight was bound for Istanbul.
The Cihan News Agency of Turkey published a photograph it claimed came from inside the plane showing a man standing in a number 11 sports jersey with empty seats around him and two people in uniform.
The Ukrainian ministry said no explosives or guns were found aboard the plane and that the suspect "voluntarily turned himself into police."
The man has since been identified by The Associated Press as Artem Hozlov, whose reported motive was to press for the release of anti-government protesters in his native country of Ukraine.