Turks hijack plane to protest pope's visit
BRINDISI, Italy (CNN) -- A Turkish plane carrying 113 people was hijacked Tuesday by by two unarmed Turks protesting Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming visit to Turkey, and landed safely in Italy, according to a Turkish national airline official.
Authorities told CNN the two have indicated they were ready to surrender to authorities, but one of their demands was that a message be delivered to the pope.
The airline spokesman said the men commandeered the plane to protest the pope's visit to Turkey, and because they were angered over the pope's recent comments quoting a 14th century scholar about Islam.
The plane departed Tirana, Albania and was headed to Istanbul, Turkey, when the hijackers announced their intentions over Greek airspace, the spokesman said on Turkish television.
The plane sent out an SOS signal and Greek defense ministry planes escorted the aircraft out of Greek airspace. Greek officials alerted their Italian counterparts, the spokesman said.
An Italian air force F-16 fighter jet then intercepted the Turkish Boeing 737, carrying 107 passengers and six crew, and forced it to land at a military airport in Brindisi, in the south of Italy, an air force official told Reuters.
The chairman of Turkish Airlines confirmed the hijacking and said none of the passengers had been hurt.
"The passengers and crew are under no threat," Candan Karlitekin told NTV television.
Many Muslims were angered by the pope's speech at a German university last month, saying it was an attempt to portray their religion as innately violent.
He later expressed his "total and profound respect for all Muslims" in an effort to repair relations following his controversial comments. (Full story)
LET THE FLAME BEGIN?