A gunman burst into a luxury Istanbul hotel, fired shots in the air and briefly took some 20 people hostage before surrendering to police on Saturday. No hostages were harmed.
Police surrounded the hotel. Private NTV television said the gunman at the Marmara Hotel was bearded and appeared to be in his mid-20s. According to NTV, he took the hostages to protest Russia's military action in the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya and Israel's offensive in the Palestinian territories. It said most of the tourists taken hostage were Greek.
In April 2001, pro-Chechen gunmen took 120 people hostage at another luxury Istanbul hotel, the Swissotel. They later released the hostages unharmed, AP reported.
In Saturday's hostage-taking, the gunman, armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, ordered 15 tourists into the ballroom of the hotel, private CNN-Turk television reported. It was not clear if any of the hostages were injured.
CNN-Turk reported that the gunman was a Chechen. Some 25,000 Chechens live in Istanbul and western Turkey, and Turks strongly sympathize with their fight against the Russians.
In March 2001, Chechen rebels hijacked a Russian plane leaving Istanbul and diverted it to Saudi Arabia. Saudi authorities stormed the plane, killing one hijacker. Two hostages were also killed. (Albawaba.com)
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