Source AP ©

Turkish plane hijackers finally charged

An Egyptian man tied with al-Qaida and his Turkish accomplice were formally arrested late after four days of interrogation about their attempt to hijack a Turkish plane to Iran.

A prosecutor charged the two men with "membership in armed terrorist organization, hijacking airplane and endangering freedoms," and asked a court in the province of Antalya to arrest them, private news agency Dogan said. The men were then sent to a nearby prison.

Mommen Abdul Aziz Talikh - wielding a fake bomb made of play dough- and Turkish citizen Mehmet Resat Ozlu hijacked an Atlasjet flight shortly after it took off Saturday morning from northern Cyprus, police said. The hijackers wanted to divert the Istanbul-bound airliner to Iran, police said.

The pilots instead landed in Antalya, in Turkey's southwest, on the pretext of refueling and fled the aircraft, starting a four-and-a-half hour standoff between police and the two men, who did not know how to fly an airplane.

The men surrendered peacefully after releasing most of the 142 people aboard. The rest had already fled the plane by breaking an emergency exit when the hijackers were busy freeing the women and children from the plane.

Police said Talikh, 33, attended an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan for two months in 2004, and that he served time in prison in Saudi Arabia for allegedly taking part in a rally in Yemen, state-run news media said earlier. Police did not say what rally Talikh attended.

The Egyptian man met Ozlu in northern Cyprus, where the latter was a college student.

The two lived in the same house for almost a month before seizing the Turkish plane, which they demanded be diverted to Iran, police said. Their aim was to join al-Qaida in Afghanistan after arriving in Iran, police said.

Dozens of Turks have joined al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Iraq. Suicide bombers with alleged links to al-Qaida killed 53 people in 2003 in their attacks against two synagogues, the British Consulate and a British bank in Istanbul. In February, a court sentenced seven people to life in prison for the bombings.

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