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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hijacked Boat, Now Free, Heads for Sochi


EREGLI, Turkey -- A Black Sea ferry with freed hostages and crew was expected to arrive Tuesday at the Russian port of Sochi, its original destination, ending a hijacking ordeal that aggravated historic tensions between Turkey and Russia.

The 3,838-ton Avrasya-Eurasia left Sunday from the Turkish port city of Eregli, 200 kilometers east of Istanbul, after arriving there Saturday.

The hijacking ended peacefully Friday when gunmen surrendered on the ferry. Nine gunmen, two of whom are Chechens, were detained by Istanbul police and remain in custody where they are being questioned.

The mostly Russian passengers tossed red and pink carnations into the water as the ferry got underway, while hundreds of Turks stood in the cold air to wave goodbye to the passengers.

Before being allowed to return to their homes, the passengers will be screened by Russian intelligence agents in Sochi, Nikolai Karpov, head of the city administration, told Interfax.

Turkish officials said 15 to 20 of the original Turkish passengers decided to disembark and not go on to Sochi. Nine Russian passengers decided to return by bus to the Turkish port of Trabzon, 900 kilometers east of Istanbul, where the hijacking began last Tuesday. There were originally some 200 passengers and crew.

The hijackers had originally threatened to blow up the Avrasya-Eurasia in Istanbul's Bosporus strait in protest at Russia's heavy-handed tactics against Chechen rebels.

The hijacking was greeted with understanding if not outright support by many Turks, while Russia complained Ankara was not doing enough to end the ordeal.

But Monday, a Russian Foreign Ministry statement commended the actions of the Turkish authorities.

"There was an active dialogue between the leadership of both countries. We established a close interaction with participation of the Foreign Ministry and other departments," Interfax quoted the statement as saying.