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Italy Says Hijacker Was Unarmed, Working Alone


Italian Interior Minister Giuliano Amato has told Italian lawmakers the man who hijacked a Turkish Airlines flight that landed in Italy Tuesday was unarmed and working alone.

There were no injuries among the 113 people on the flight from Albania to Turkey. The hijacking ended with the suspect's arrest on a tarmac in the southern Italian city of Brindisi.

Amato told Italy's Senate Wednesday the suspect, 27-year-old Turk Hakan Ekinci, said he wanted to deliver a message for Pope Benedict. But no note was found.

Later reports said the hijacker was a Christian convert seeking asylum in Italy.

Authorities say he had written the pope in August apparently seeking the Vatican's help in avoiding military service in the Turkish army, which considers him a deserter. He left Turkey several months ago for Albania.

Pope Benedict is due to travel to Turkey later this year. His visit has attracted close attention since the controversy surrounding a recent reference to Islam.

Speaking to a group of scholars in Germany last month, the pope noted a medieval Byzantine emperor's criticism of Islam as a religion founded in violence.

Although the pope disavowed those sentiments, he became the focus of protests by many Muslim groups worldwide.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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