Wed, 24 Jul 2019

A passenger suspected of trying to hijack a domestic Aeroflot flight and divert it to Afghanistan has been detained by law enforcement, Russia's Investigative Committee says.

The man was apprehended after the plane flying from Surgut in Siberia to Moscow on January 22 made an emergency landing in Khanty-Mansiisk, committee spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said.

'As of now the man has been detained. His identity has been established, he is a citizen of Surgut who was earlier convicted of damaging property,' Petrenko said in a statement.

The detainee was being investigated on suspicion of attempting to hijack a plane and threatening violence, Petrenko added.

The passenger was drunk, claimed that he was armed, and tried to get into the plane's cockpit and change its course, the statement said.

Petrenko did not disclose details of the detention, but Russian media outlets posted video footage that showed what appeared to be law enforcement officers in balaclavas detaining him aboard the plane as passengers looked on.

The announcement by the Investigative Committee followed conflicting reports about whether the incident was over.

Following the jet's emergency landing in Khanty-Mansiisk shortly after reports that a passenger demanded it fly to Afghanistan, Russian media had quoted law enforcement sources as saying the would-be hijacker had been detained.

But the National Anti-Terrorism Committee later said that was not true and that the suspect was still on board the Boeing 737, along with all the other passengers.

Reports said security had been tightened at the airport in Khanty-Mansiisk, 1,900 kilometers northeast of Moscow.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

According to REN TV, the detained passenger has a police record, including robbery and narcotics convictions.

The plane had taken off from Surgut, east of Khanty-Mansiisk, on a flight to Moscow when the passenger demanded it fly to Afghanistan, reports said.

It then reversed course and made an emergency landing.

Aeroflot Flight SU1515 had 69 passengers on board and seven crew members, the airline said.

With reporting by Current Time, RFE/RL's Russian Service, Reuters, Interfax, TASS, and REN TV RFE/RL

RFE/RL journalists report the news in 25 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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