DOHA – Authorities in Iran foiled an attempted hijacking of an Iran Air (IR) airplane flying from Ahvaz in southwestern Iran to Mashhad in northwestern Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) announced Friday.

The Fokker 100, with flight number 334, made an emergency landing in Isfahan airport Thursday after IRGC air marshals subdued the hijacker, Mehr News Agency reported.

No one on board was injured, according to the Associated Press.

Fokker 100 (F-28-0100), Iran Air. Photo: Konstantin Von Wedelstaedt (GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons

A Nightmare That Began 20 Minutes into the Flight

Twenty minutes after the flight took off from Ahvaz Airport at 22:10 (local time) on Thursday, the hijacker Mohammad Hossein Haghighatmanash gave a flight attendant a note that read, “I am carrying a bomb and the remote control is in the hands of another passenger.” 

Haghighatmanash further demanded that the pilots return to Ahvaz.

He then got up and headed to the front of the cabin, where he repeated his demands and threatened to set off what appeared to be an explosive belt made with duct tape, wires, and wooden sticks strapped around him.

IranAir EP-IJA Airbus A330-243 Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

Suspect, Family Promptly Detained

IRGC air marshals then stepped in, and after a brief conversation with Haghighatmanash, detained him. His wife and two sons, who were traveling along with him, were also held by authorities.

An official later clarified that the suspect had no explosives. Haghighatmanash just had a few wooden sticks wrapped around him with the duct tape.

The Revolutionary Guard’s announcement after the incident did not mention Haghighatmanash’s name. The IRGC stated that the hijacker wanted the plane to divert to the “southern shores of the Persian Gulf,” which would include countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia that are hostile to Iran’s regional ambitions.

Iran Air EP-IED Airbus A320-212. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

Not the First Attempted Hijacking

Air marshals from the IRGC reportedly board domestic flights in Iran to prevent any attack or hijacking attempt. The IRGC has taken over aviation security since the 1980s after several hijacking attempts by resistance fighters opposed to the country’s theocratic regime. 

The most recent of such attempts occurred in 2000. A man carrying a fake pistol and gasoline bomb tried to hijack a similar IR Fokker 100 in September, 2000, demanding that it flew to France. He also started a fire on board.

Two months later in November, 2000, armed men seized an Iran Airtour (B9) Yakovlev YAK-40 and demanded that the aircraft be flown to the United States. The IRGC’s air marshals stopped the hijacking. The incident, however, ended with one marshal shot and another one stabbed. A flight attendant and five of the hijackers were also injured.

Featured Image: Fokker 100 (F-28-0100), Iran Air. Photo: Konstantin von Wedelstaedt (GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons