A Russian Aeroflot airliner with up to 170 passengers on board arrived safely at its destination late Thursday after an apparent hijacking attempt forced it to be diverted to Prague, The Associated Press reports.
Tired passengers spoke of the nine-hour ordeal they endured after a man, identified by Aeroflot as Yevgeny Dagayev, born in 1974, tried to enter the cockpit claiming to be carrying a bomb and demanded that the plane fly to Egypt.
Ilya Levitov, 27, who was sitting at the front of the plane, said the man was “really drunk.” “We were sitting, watching movies, eating, and it all happened very fast,” said Levitov. “There was a fight with the stewards, and three or four passengers joined in.”
Once the man had been subdued the plane was diverted to Prague’s Ruzyne international airport, where police boarded the plane and removed the suspect and his eight family members, including three children.
Pavel Hantak, spokesman for Czech police, said the family was not involved in the incident. The suspect was slightly injured, he said, but did not provide any details of the injury.
Authorities did not suspect a terror plot, said Jan Subert, spokesman for the Czech counterintelligence service, the BIS. “From what we know, the incident had nothing to do with terrorism,” he said.
The Airbus A320, which was scheduled to fly from Moscow to Geneva on Thursday morning, was searched by police for explosives because the suspect had claimed “he had an explosive device,” Aeroflot deputy director Lev Koshlyakov told Russia’s Rossiya television.
No explosives were found, but passengers had to wait nine hours for their journey to resume.
“We had no information at all,” said business class passenger Michael Galkin, 54. “We didn’t know when we would take off. We had to contact the authorities ourselves.”
Others, too, complained of lack of information and help from the Czech authorities.
“We didn’t eat, we didn’t drink. We sat all day in one terminal. We are tired, very, very tired,” said Natalya Yermolaeva, 25.
According to Czech police, the suspect will remain in Prague, but it was not immediately clear whether he would be prosecuted there or handed over to Russian authorities.
Two Gripen jet fighters were placed on alert during the incident, Czech Defense Ministry spokesman Andrej Cirtek said. “We had two planes in the air ready to intervene, but no intervention was necessary,” he said.