Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 187

Two men convicted of hijacking the steamship "Avrazia" in January 1996 have escaped from prison in Turkey and are now believed to be in Chechnya. (Kommersant-daily, Izvestia, October 7; BBC World Service, October 8)

On January 16, 1996, a group of fighters calling themselves the "Grandsons of Shamil" seized the "Avrazia" with 211 passengers and crew members, in Turkey’s Black Sea port of Trabzon. The hijacking took place as Russian troops were storming the village of Pervomaiskoe, where Salman Raduev’s fighters were dug in. The leader of the "Grandsons of Shamil," Muhammed Tokchan, first demanded that Russia withdraw its troops from Pervomaiskoe, but later agreed to release the hostages in exchange for being allowed to hold a press conference in Istanbul. Afterwards, nine of the hijackers surrendered to the authorities without resistance.

Two of these men have now managed to escape. One is Tokchan himself. A Turkish citizen, he escaped from a prison in the resort city of Dalaman, on the Aegean coast. The other is Visan Abdurakhmanov, a Chechen. He escaped from a hospital in the city of Bursa in Western Turkey. Turkish police say both men are probably now in Chechnya and are unlikely to be recaptured.

FBI Arrests Three on Espionage Charges.