Pro-Chechen Gunmen Surrender Peacefully, Free Istanbul Hotel Hostages
A group of pro-Chechen gunmen who seized dozens of hostages in an Istanbul luxury hotel surrendered to authorities and freed all their captives Monday, an AFP reporter at the scene said.
Turkish television showed footage of the hostage takers being transported by bus away from the hotel to Istanbul police headquarters, after the drama ended apparently peacefully with the hostages safe and sound.
The armed group's leader was identified as Muhammed Tokcan, a Turk who leads a pro-Chechen commando unit which in 1996 held a ferry with 200 people on board for three days at Trabzon, on the Black Sea, in protest against Russian military action in the breakaway province of Chechnya.
Tokcan escaped from prison, after receiving an eight-year jail term, but was later seized by Turkish police as he attempted to flee the country. He later benefitted from an amnesty law and was released.
The 13-strong group of hostage-takers also included six Turks, two Chechens and one from the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia, explained Mehdi Cetinbas, president of the Foundation of Solidarity with the Caucasus.
He said the gunmen were armed with pump-action shotguns – ISTANBUL (AFP)
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