Suspects in airline diversion to be released
NETHERLANDS: Dutch prosecutors found no evidence of a
terrorist threat aboard a Northwest Airlines flight to India that
returned to Amsterdam, and they are releasing all 12 passengers arrested
after the emergency landing.
The men, all Indian nationals, had aroused suspicions on Flight
NW0042 to Bombay because they had a large number of cell phones, laptops
and hard drives, and refused to follow the crew's instructions,
Because of those actions by the passengers, the pilot of the DC-10
radioed for help shortly after takeoff Wednesday and the plane was
escorted back to Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport by two Dutch fighter jets.
The 12 were arrested after the plane landed. U.S. air marshals on the
flight also were suspicious of the men, U.S. officials and passengers
"A thorough investigation of the cell phones in the plane found that
the phones were not manipulated and no explosives were found on board
the plane," said a statement Thursday from the prosecutor's office in
Haarlem, which has jurisdiction over the airport.
"From the statements of the suspects and the witnesses, no evidence
could be brought forward that these men were about to commit an act of
violence," the statement said.
The men will be released and will be free to leave the Netherlands,
prosecution spokesman Ed Hartjes said.
The incident reflected the jitters that persist in the airline
industry in the two weeks since British police revealed an alleged plot
to blow up several U.S.-bound airliners simultaneously using bombs
crafted from ordinary consumer goods.
Hartjes said the electronic equipment the suspects possessed could
have been enough to trigger an explosion, and he defended the captain's
caution. "This was a correct reaction under the circumstances," he said.
An official at the Indian embassy in The Hague, who refused to give
his name, said consular staff were "still in the process of ascertaining
the details from the Dutch authorities," and said nobody was available
Hartjes said 11 of the men had been traveling together, catching a
connecting flight in Amsterdam from a South American country which he
refused to identify. The 12th man aroused suspicion for other
unspecified reasons, he said. He refused to give personal details about
any of them.
Passengers described the men as between 25 and 35 years old and
speaking Urdu, the language commonly spoken in Pakistan and by many of
India's Muslims. Some had beards, and some wore a shalwar kameez, a long
shirt and baggy pants commonly worn by South Asian Muslims.
The passengers on the flight, meanwhile, returned to Bombay from
Amsterdam in four different flights.
A Scottish tourist, Stewart Nichols, in his 40s, said he saw the 12
being handcuffed by three armed air marshals. "I don't think that any of
them behaved suspiciously."
"They were not fastening seat belts despite being told so by the
airline staff," Nichols said.
The security alert was the latest of several incidents reported since
an alleged terrorism plot to blow up U.S.-bound commercial flights was
revealed in London.