ANKARA, Turkey -- A Ukrainian man tried to hijack a Turkey-bound flight to Sochi, Russia, as the Winter Olympics kicked off Friday, but the pilot tricked him and landed in Istanbul instead, where he was stealthily detained after a four-hour stand-off on a plane with 110 passengers aboard, an official said.
The hijacking drama came as the Winter Olympics opened in the Russian resort city, with thousands of athletes from around the world pouring into the tightly secured stadium amid warnings that the games could be a terrorism target.
A Turkish F-16 fighter was scrambled as soon as the pilot on the Pegasus Airlines flight from Kharkiv, Ukraine, signaled that there was a hijacking attempt, according to NTV television. It escorted the plane safely to its original destination at Sabiha Gokcen airport in Istanbul.
Officials credited the pilot and crew for convincing the unidentified 45-year-old man, who claimed he had a bomb, that they were following his wishes. "Through a very successful implementation by our pilot and crew, the plane was landed in Istanbul instead of Sochi," Istanbul Gov. Huseyin Avni Mutlu said at the airport. "He thought it was going to Sochi, but after awhile, he realized that [the plane] was in Istanbul."
He said the suspected hijacker was arrested after a stand-off during which a negotiator convinced him first to let women and children be evacuated and then to agree to let all other passengers off the plane as well.
"Our security units sneaked through various entrances during the evacuation of the passengers, and with a quick and effective intervention the hijacker was subdued," Mr. Mutlu said. No bomb was found, he said.
The man's motive was unclear, but Mr. Mutlu said he had "requests concerning his own country" and wanted to relay a "message concerning sporting activities in Sochi." The governor, who did not identify the hijacker, said there was no immediate indication that the man was a terror organization member.
"We were receiving through various channels information that there could be initiatives to sabotage the spirit of peace arising in Sochi, but we are saddened that such an event took place in our city," Mr. Mutlu said.
Habib Soluk, the Turkish Transport Ministry undersecretary, told NTV earlier that the man rose from his seat, shouted that there was a bomb on board and tried to enter the locked cockpit.
The plane landed about 6 p.m. Turkish time, just as the Olympics opening ceremony in Sochi was about to begin. The ceremony's executive creative director told reporters afterward that he heard about the threat but didn't alter the show's plans in any way. "We had so much adrenaline in our veins that we could not grasp much," Konstantin Ernst said through an interpreter.
With about 100,000 police, security agents and army troops flooding Sochi, Russia has pledged to ensure "the safest Olympics in history." But terror fears fueled by recent suicide bombings have left athletes, spectators and officials worldwide jittery.
Security experts warn that Islamic militants in the Caucasus, who have threatened to derail the Winter Games that run to Feb. 23, could achieve their goal by choosing soft targets away from Olympic sites, even outside Sochi.
Authorities from St. Petersburg to the Caucasus detained at least 61 people Friday for holding unauthorized protests ahead of the games' opening ceremony. The detentions underscored the government's efforts to stifle protests even far from the games.
Police swept up 37 people who gathered in Nalchik, capital of the southern Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, to draw attention to the historic grievances of the Circassians, whose homeland around Sochi was occupied by Russian Imperial forces 150 years ago.
The New York Times contributed.