Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Dutch Flight Grounded, 12 Passengers Arrested

I wasn't going to post today, but this story caught my eye. AOL Reports:

Dutch F-16s escorted a Northwest Airlines flight bound for India back to an  airport here Wednesday after the pilot radioed for help, and police arrested 12  passengers who had aroused suspicions , authorities said.

Police spokesman Rob Staenacker said he could not disclose  their nationalities or the nature of the suspicions against them, only that " 12  people have been arrested." An American passenger, who identified herself only  as Alpa, told AP Television News she saw about a dozen people taken off the  plane in handcuffs.

While Flight NO0042 was over German airspace shortly after  takeoff, the pilot radioed for permission to return to Schiphol Airport and  asked for an escort of jet fighters because some of the passengers were acting  suspiciously, the Defense Ministry said.

"A number of them behaved, in the opinion of the crew, in a suspicious manner," said the ministry. "As a result, the captain asked to return  to Schiphol."

A U.S. government official, speaking on condition of  anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, said crew members and  air marshals observed the passengers trying to use cell phones and passing them  among themselves while the airliner was taking off.

"It was behavior that average passengers wouldn't do," the  official said.

The DC-10 was escorted back to Schiphol by two F-16s  scrambled from a northern military airfield, the Defense Ministry said. Routine  security measures were swiftly put into place.

The plane was carrying 149 passengers, when it turned  around after crossing the German border. A Northwest DC-10 has a normal seating  capacity of 273.

The Dutch National Terrorism Coordinator's Office was  informed, but said there was no reason to raise the national threat level,  spokeswoman Judith Sluiter said.

The flight was canceled until Thursday, and the passengers  were put up in hotels, Northwest said.

"It is the same as it was before - light threat," said  Sluiter.

Like airports around the world, Schiphol raised the level  of security two weeks ago when British police announced they had uncovered a  plot to blow up several U.S.-bound commercial jetliners, but Kuypers said threat  levels had returned to normal.

Several alerts have been sounded since the terrorism plot  was outlined in London. On Friday, a British plane made an emergency landing in  southern Italy after a bomb scare, and the U.S. Air Force scrambled jets to  escort a United Airlines flight from London to Washington as it was diverted to  Boston.

Wednesday's security alert was the first at Amsterdam's  international airport since September, when a British Airways flight returned in  similar circumstances. It turned out to be a false alarm.

I'll post updates later, especially if this ends up having terror ties.

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