Police officers negotiate with an armed man for hours. He broke through onto the apron with his car and his four-year-old daughter hostage. At the end there is a collective sigh of relief.
The taking of a four-year-old girl hostage on the tarmac at Hamburg airport has had a happy ending after more than 18 hours of war of nerves. The police arrested the armed hostage-taker, who had had his daughter in his power since Saturday, without resistance. “The suspect left the car with his daughter,” the police wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “The child appears to be unharmed.”
This marked the end of a hostage situation that had begun on Saturday in Stade, Lower Saxony. From there the 35-year-old drove to Hamburg Airport. At the airport around 8 p.m. he broke through a barrier at the gate to the airport apron with his car, in which his daughter was also sitting. He shot into the air on the premises and threw incendiary devices from the car. His car then sat next to a Turkish Airlines plane for more than 18 hours. The police tried for hours to end the hostage-taking without bloodshed – and were finally successful early on Sunday afternoon.
Thanks from the mayor and Senator for the Interior
“Many thanks to the Hamburg police for their commitment and the prudent approach that enabled the four-year-old girl to be freed and the perpetrator arrested,” said Mayor Peter Tschentscher (SPD). “I wish the mother, the child and their family a lot of strength to overcome the terrible experiences.”
During the nerve-wracking police operation, flight operations in the north were suspended and the airport was still closed on Sunday afternoon. According to Interior Senator Andy Grote (SPD), it was “one of the longest and most challenging operations in recent history” for the Hamburg police. He would like to thank all police colleagues for their strong performance.
Custody dispute as a starting point
According to the police, this was probably preceded by a custody dispute with the mother. According to a spokesman, the hostage taker’s wife, who is said to have been in Stade near Hamburg, reported to the state police about possible child abduction. “We are currently assuming that a custody dispute is the background to the operation,” tweeted the Hamburg police.
During the hour-long negotiations with the 35-year-old, the girl who was held hostage in the car appeared to be physically unharmed, according to police. The child could be heard in the background of the phone calls with the man, police spokeswoman Sandra Levgrün told the German Press Agency.
The child’s mother is waiting at the airport
Negotiations had been going on all night long. The conversation was in Turkish, said Levgrün, who emphasized during the operation: “We are relying on a negotiated solution here.” According to the head of the DRK Hamburg’s crisis intervention team, Malte Stüben, the mother “of course wanted to get to her child as quickly as possible.” The woman was therefore in direct contact with the DRK at the airport. According to Stüben, a pediatrician was also there to look after the four-year-old girl after she was taken hostage.
Thousands of people are affected
The airport remained largely closed on Sunday. The number of flights canceled due to the hostage-taking at Hamburg airport rose steadily. According to the airport, 126 flights had already been canceled between the actual start of operations at 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. Five arrivals were redirected to other airports. There were actually 286 flights planned for the entire day – 139 departures and 147 arrivals – with around 34,500 passengers. Yesterday, 27 flights with around 3,200 passengers were affected.
Passengers describe fears
“Scary,” “creepy” – that’s how passengers who were taken out of their planes described their impressions. A young woman who wanted to fly to Mallorca told dpa that she saw a fire and at first thought it would be quickly put out. Then she heard there was a shooting spree, and that was scary. In fact, the armed man had thrown incendiary bottles as he drove through the airport, which started fires on the apron.
Numerous passengers spent the night in an airport hotel. “We ultimately accommodated 250 people here,” said Frank Kohlstädt, head of the DRK station at the airport. Around 200 people also received hotel rooms. People were more excited than psychologically stressed.
Security incidents before
Hamburg airport had already been closed in October, but at that time because of a threat of attack on a plane from Tehran to Hamburg. In July, climate activists from the group Last Generation shut down Hamburg airport for hours. At that time there were calls for security to be strengthened. Despite the hostage-taking, Hamburg Airport sees no failures in securing the area. “Securing the site complies with all legal requirements and largely exceeds them,” an airport spokeswoman told the dpa.
Criticism of security deficiencies at airports
Nevertheless, there was also criticism of the security standards at German airports. For the German Police Union (DPolG), for example, the current approach is no longer sufficient. “It is difficult to convey that Christmas markets, for example, are secured with concrete barricades, and our airports, as high-security areas, are neglected by operators,” says DPolG Federal Vice President Heiko Teggatz.
Aviation expert Heinrich Großbongardt said in “Spiegel”: “Hamburg airport is not safe – and neither are other airports in Germany.” Airports have been known as preferred targets for terrorists for decades. There are planes on the aprons with tens of thousands of liters of kerosene in their stomachs and hundreds of passengers on board.” Großbongardt therefore described the airport operators and authorities as “incredibly naive.”
Airport association: 100 percent protection impossible
The airport association ADV considers complete protection of security areas at airports to be impossible. At large airports, the fencing could be more than 40 kilometers long. In addition, there are gates and access systems that must be quickly passable in certain places for safety reasons – for example for the fire department, the association said. With regard to the penetration of an armed man onto the apron of Hamburg Airport, the association also stated: “In these cases, 100 percent protection against penetration with brute force is impossible.” The 35-year-old broke through the barriers at the entrance with his car.
The association emphasized: “The airport operators’ security measures, coordinated with the responsible supervisory authorities and the police, go beyond the legal requirements at all locations in Germany.” In addition to the structural measures, alarm chains have been established that have worked perfectly in all previous incidents. “Flight operations were stopped immediately after unauthorized entry. No travelers or employees were harmed.”