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Dutch arrest 12 on US plane bound for India

Written by: Staff
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Amsterdam,Aug 24: Dutch police arrested 12 passengers behaving suspiciously on a US Northwest Airlines plane bound for India that was forced to turn back to Amsterdam's Schiphol airport yesterday.

Police arrested 12 of the 149 passengers on flight 42 to Mumbai, which turned back to Amsterdam due to security concerns after the crew reported suspicious behaviour, officials said. Two Dutch fighter jets accompanied the plane back to Schiphol.

''They will be interrogated in the coming hours by police investigators,'' a police spokesman said.

Asked whether a suspected terrorist plot could be ruled out, he said: ''We don't want to get ahead of ourselves.'' Dutch police can hold suspects for three days without charge, extended by another three days in special circumstances, news agency ANP said. The authorities expect to provide more information today.

Dutch media cited eye witnesses saying those arrested were not following airline security rules and were exchanging mobile phones which had made other passengers uneasy.

''They were not paying attention to what the flight attendents were saying,'' an unnamed female passenger said on NOS television.

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

CARGO HUB

But the return of the Northwest plane did not lead to heightened security yesterday, an airport spokeswoman said.

She added that it also had not affected other flights at Schiphol, Europe's third largest cargo airport and fourth biggest passenger hub.

Dutch airport officials said the Northwest pilot decided to turn back his 273-seat DC10-30 when it was in German airspace.

A Northwest spokeswoman said the passengers who were allowed to go free were staying in local hotels, adding Northwest would try the flight to Mumbai again today.

Last month serial bomb blasts hit commuter trains in Mumbai, killing more than 180 people. Indian police said on Tuesday they had foiled another possible attack in the city after they shot dead a suspected Pakistani national.

The Dutch Defence Ministry said it was keeping the national counter-terrorism coordinator informed. The government has not decided to take any extra security measures, it said.

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

The Dutch secret service AIVD warned in March that the war in Iraq and the presence of Dutch troops in Afghanistan might motivate possible attacks and encourage the recruitment of home-grown Islamist militants.

British prosecutors investigating the plane bomb plot foiled earlier this month 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.

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 for belonging to a terrorist group.

Reuters

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