March 5, 2021 By Nasser Karimi, The Associated Press
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard on Friday said authorities disrupted an attempted hijacking of a passenger plane in flight the previous night, though it offered few details on what happened.
The purported hijacking targeted an Iran Air Fokker 100 regional commercial jet heading from the southwestern city of Ahvaz to the northwestern city of Mashhad, the Guard said on its website.
The Guard’s announcement did not identify the hijacker, saying only the hijacker sought to divert the flight to the “southern shores of the Persian Gulf.” That description would include the countries of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, three nations long suspicious of Iran’s intentions in the wider region.
It said the Iran Air flight made an emergency landing in the central Iranian city of Isfahan, and no one was injured in the incident. It wasn’t immediately clear if the purported hijacker had been armed during the attempt.
A Fokker 100 was scheduled to take off from Ahvaz for Mashhad at 7:15 p.m. Thursday, according to the plane-tracking website FlightRadar24.com. Iran Air has three of the aircraft in its fleet, each around 30 years old as Iran remains locked out of international aircraft sales due to sanctions.
Iranian domestic flights reportedly carry armed air marshals from the Guard aboard them to disrupt any attempted attack or hijacking. The Guard took over aviation security in the 1980s after a series of incidents involving Iranian opposition groups seizing aircraft in the unrest that followed the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The last two such attempts happened in 2000. In September 2000, a man armed with a fake pistol and a gasoline bomb sought to seize an Iran Air Fokker 100, trying to get the flight to go to France. He started a fire aboard and later was detained, according to a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration report.
In November 2000, armed men from four families seized a Yakovlev YAK-40 aircraft flown by Iranian Ariatour Airlines, demanding to be flown to the United States. Guard air marshals foiled the attempt, though one of them was shot and a second stabbed. A flight attendant and five hijackers also were injured, the FAA report says.
Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.