Hamburg Airport hostage drama ends after 18 hours

Special forces detain a suspect after a man drove through a barrier on to the grounds of the city's airport with a child in his car in Hamburg, Germany, 5 November 2023
Image caption,The suspect was detained by special forces

By Kathryn Armstrong

BBC News

A hostage situation at Hamburg Airport involving a young child has ended after 18 hours, according to local police.

The man, 35, drove through a security barrier and on to the airport tarmac on Saturday night with his four-year-old daughter in the car and parked under a plane.

He eventually gave himself up to the authorities “without resistance”, according to police, and was arrested.

“The child appears to be unharmed,” they wrote on X (formerly Twitter).

The incident caused the disruption of several flights in and out of the airport. Operations have since resumed but there are significant delays.

It began at about 20:00 local time (19:00 GMT) when the suspect drove his car to the airport’s apron, the area where aircraft are usually parked.

Police said the man shot his weapon twice in the air and threw burning bottles from the vehicle. It was unclear if the man had explosives.

They later clarified that he stopped the vehicle where a commercial flight full of passengers was preparing to take off. Everyone on board was evacuated safely.

According to local media, he parked under a Turkish Airlines plane.

Hundreds of other people waiting for flights in the airport had to be put up in hotels.

Hamburg police spokeswoman Sandra Levgruen said earlier on Sunday that the man did not agree with some decisions made by the authorities in relation to the custody arrangement and wanted to travel to Turkey with the child.

“He speaks about his life being a heap of shards,” she told German broadcaster ZDF.

Following the incident, the authorities said the man had been in an “exceptional psychological situation due to custody disputes with his ex-wife”.

They said he had taken their daughter following an argument and her mother then alerted emergency services – filing a complaint of suspected child abduction.

It is not the first time the man, who is a Turkish citizen, has been accused of kidnapping the young girl. Last year he was investigated after he travelled to Turkey with her without permission. The mother later brought the child back to Germany.

“I wish the mother, the child and her family a lot of strength to cope with this terrible experience,” Hamburg Mayor Peter Tschentscher wrote on X after the hostage situation ended.

The airport said it was working to resume operations as quickly as possible. A total of 286 flights with about 34,500 passengers had been scheduled for Sunday, it said earlier.

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