Turkish security forces have raided a hijacked passenger ferry and killed the lone assailant, ending a 12-hour siege on the boat in the country’s northwest, officials say.
The commandos killed the man who hijacked the ferry with about 20 passengers on board, Huseyin Avni Mutlu, Istanbul’s governor, announced on Saturday.
“From 5:45 this morning, security forces as part of a joint operation successfully completed their mission and the hijacker has been taken dead,” he said.
The crew and passengers were all safe and the identity of the hijacker, who was carrying explosives, was still being determined, Mutlu said.
The ferry was anchored just off the coast of the town of Silivri, on Istanbul’s outskirts.
Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught, reporting from Istanbul, said the information on the specifics of the raid remained sketchy because all maritime transport in the area had been shut down.
“It now seems that there was only one man who had hijacked the vessel rather than the five or four in the initial reports,” she said.
“It’s also unclear who he was and what he represented.”
Mutlu, the Istanbul official, said: “It was clear that the assailant was a terror group member.”
He was between 28 and 30 years old and was carrying a device with a button and cables which bomb-disposal experts were analysing, he said.
No ‘concrete demands’
Binali Yildirim, the Turkish transport minister, had earlier said in Ankara, the Turkish capital, that the hijacker had not made any concrete demands and had only sought fuel, food and drink.
Ambulances and police teams had been waiting on the nearby shore, and Reuters Television reporters saw some passengers, apparently uninjured, being taken to hospital at Silivri.
Others, according to news channels, were taken to a police station.
State TV said some people jumped into the sea during the raid.
Coast-guard boats and helicopter had been shadowing the ferry since it was hijacked on Friday evening after it set sail from the port of Izmit in the Sea of Marmara.
Initial reports had said up to five suspected members of a branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), armed with explosives, carried out the hijacking.
“The more we find out that it was a lone hijacker and not a group of four or five armed people, the more one questions what his motives might have been,” Al Jazeera’s McNaught said.
“It is not that the PKK or its sympathisers are not capable of acting individually. But certainly, the PKK itself has said nothing about the hijacking, neither admitted responsibility or said they were in any way involved.”
The PKK has been fighting for autonomy in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast and has recently stepped up attacks on Turkish forces in that region.
The Turkish military has responded by staging an air and ground offensive against PKK hideouts in neighbouring Iraq.
Turkish police have also detained hundreds of Kurdish activists on suspicion of ties to the fighters.
Earlier, the pro-Kurdish Firat news agency, without citing sources, said the ferry was heading towards the heavily guarded prison island of Imrali, where the PKK’s head, Abdullah Ocalan, is serving life in prison.
The PKK and Kurdish politicians have been calling for Ocalan’s release as a condition for peace.