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U S plane bound for India turned back to Amsterdam

Written by: Staff

AMSTERDAM, Aug 23 (Reuters) A U S Northwest Airlines plane bound for Mumbai was turned back to Amsterdam's Schiphol airport today accompanied by Dutch fighter planes due to worrying passenger behaviour, officials said.

''Northwest flight number 42 from Amsterdam to Mumbai with 149 passengers returned to Amsterdam when a couple of passengers displayed behaviour of concern,'' said Northwest spokeswoman Kristin Heinmets, speaking from Minneapolis.

A Dutch air traffic control spokeswoman said the plane was in German airspace when it turned back. A spokeswoman for Schiphol said the pilot had taken the decision.

''We are cross-examining witnesses, passengers and crew,'' a Dutch police spokesman said, adding no arrests had been made and the passengers were being questioned near the craft, a 273-seat DC10-30 plane.

Security has been increased at airports worldwide after British police said on August 10 they had foiled a plot to blow up planes in the mid-Atlantic using liquid explosives disguised as drinks.

British prosecutors announced on Monday they were charging 11 people after police found bomb-making equipment, suicide notes and ''martyrdom videos''. No decision has yet been taken on whether to charge another 11 people who are still being held.

As many as 17 more people, including at least two British nationals, are being held in Pakistan over the suspected plot.

A spokeswoman for Dutch counter-terrorism said the level of security alert had not been changed at Schiphol airport -- Europe's third largest cargo airport and fourth biggest passenger hub -- at midday today.

The Netherlands' security alert level has been at ''substantial'' since bombings in London last year, the second highest in a four-stage warning system.

An Iberian Airlines flight bound for Madrid was turned back to the Netherlands in April after a woman raised the alarm about a passenger she thought was acting suspiciously. The passenger was later cleared of any wrongdoing.

The Dutch secret service AIVD warned in March that the war in Iraq and the presence of Dutch troops in Afghanistan acted as motivation for possible attacks and for recruitment of home grown Islamist militants.

The 2004 murder of a filmmaker critical of Islam by a Dutch Moroccan shook the country and highlighted the activities of home grown militants. Nine young Muslim men were sentenced to jail this year on the charge of belonging to a terrorist group.

Reuters SHB VV1819

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