News Column

Pakistan Plane Forced Down in London, 2 Arrested

May 24, 2013

British police arrested two men on Friday after they reportedly tried to get into the cockpit of a Pakistani passenger plane, forcing the flight to be diverted under military escort to a London airport.

The men, both British nationals aged 30 and 41, were removed from the Manchester-bound plane upon landing at Stansted airport and taken into custody on suspicion of endangering an aircraft, Essex police said.

"This incident is being treated as a criminal offence," police superintendent Darrin Tomkins said, adding that the suspects will remain in custody pending interviews by detectives.

The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane would undergo forensic examinations, he said, but added that "no suspicious items have been recovered."

While authorities believe the mid-air scare was not motivated by terrorism, the incident comes two days after the nation was put on edge by the grisly death of a soldier on the streets of London by two men believed to be inspired by radical Islam.

The British Defence Ministry scrambled a Typhoon fighter jet to escort the Boeing 777 after the authorities were alerted, just 10 minutes before it was scheduled to land in Manchester at 1:30 pm (1230 GMT). It touched down at London's Stansted airport at 2:15 pm.

Flight 709 had originated in Lahore, Pakistan and was carrying 297 passengers and 11 crew members. The airline said all the passengers were safe.

Several people on board reported that the men had mad threats to the crew and tried to get into the cockpit.

"The cabin crew informed us that basically they tried to come into the cockpit a few times and because they had been asked not to do that they got into a bit of an argument with the crew and made a few threats," passenger Umari Nauman said.

The plane remains isolated on the north side of the airport. An airport spokesman said they were working to transport passengers by bus to Manchester.

Stansted airport is assigned to deal with emergency aviation situations, such as terror threats, Sky News reported.

In 2011, a PIA Boeing 777 with the same flight number and also bound from Lahore to Manchester was diverted after a bomb scare.

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

Story Tools Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters