Ferry hijacker shot dead by commandos
Turkish security forces shot dead a suspected Kurdish rebel hijacker in a pre-dawn raid early Saturday, ending a 12-hour hostage situation on a high-speed ferry in northwest Turkey, authorities said.
AFP - Turkish commandos killed a Kurdish rebel Saturday after he hijacked a ferry with 24 people aboard in the country's northwest, and brought his hostages to safety after a 12-hour ordeal.
Special forces stormed the ferry, carrying 18 passengers at dawn and killed the hijacker off the coast of Silivri, a town west of Istanbul, media reports and hostage accounts said.
"We saw the commandos (boarding). They finished it in 10 minutes," former hostage Ceyhun Tezel told the NTV news channel. "We didn't see them (killing the hijacker), but we heard three shots first, and then three more," he said, adding: "We prayed and thanked to God that we survived."
"One of our friends opened the door and (the commandos) came in. We kept our silence. There were about 15 people," another former hostage, an elderly man with silver hair, told NTV after testifying to police.
Interior Minister Idris Naim Sener told NTV that the assailant was 27-year-old Mensur Guzel, head of the youth branch of the banned separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Kocaeli province, and carrying a bomb.
The rebel was carrying three pieces of A-4 explosives, each 450 grammes (about a pound), the minister said, adding that the incident was "serious" but "successfully" handled.
He said it was not possible to arrest the hijacker alive. "Officers tried to convince him (to surrender) during the whole night," he said. "They told him everything they could."
Officials' remarks conflicted over the hijacker's connections with the PKK and whether he was carrying a real bomb.
Kocaeli governor Ercan Topaca said earlier that the hijacker was carrying a fake bomb made up of wires and bottles. Topaca also voiced suspicions over his connection with the PKK.
"The first findings strengthen the possibility that this was a simple incident" without links to the PKK, the Anatolia news agency quoted Topaca as saying.
Sener said three people were detained over suspected links to the hijacker.
The ferry Kartepe was hijacked around 1600 GMT on Friday in the Sea of Marmara, where PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan is jailed on an island.
The boat was plying its normal route in the north of the Sea of Marmara when it was seized and it was anchored off Silivri after sailing in circles until it ran out of gas, according to media reports.
The hijacker told the ferry's captain that he wanted media publicity, mayor Ismail Karaosmanoglu said. The attacker had conveyed demands for food and fuel through the captured captain.
The island of Imrali, where Ocalan, the jailed PKK leader, is held, is about 120 kilometres (75 miles) southwest of the hijacking spot. Turkish media say the hijacker was assumed to be heading for the island.
Measures were boosted around the island Imrali, said the pro-Kurdish Firat news agency. Ocalan was not allowed to see his lawyers for months, it addded.
After prosecutors conducted their investigation onboard, the ferry sailed to nearby Ambarli port under escort of security officials, media reports said.
The body of the hijacker, which was kept on the ferry after the operation was over, was to be send to a forensic medicine unit in Istanbul, Anatolia said.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and much of the international community, took up arms for Kurdish independence in southeastern Turkey in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000 lives.
Clashes between the PKK and the army have escalated since mid-2011.
A surge of attacks by PKK rebels also caused civilian deaths in Turkey, prompting the Turkish military to launch a cross-border operation against rebel hideouts in northern Iraq in October.