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Dutch Minister says Northwest flight incident not terror

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Aug 24 (UNI) A Dutch Minister said the return of US Northwest Airlines flight No NW0042 to Amsterdam did not seem to have been prompted by a terrorist threat even as it was revealed that all the 12 people who were detained were born in Mumbai.

Dutch Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner said today that the incident does not appear to be terror related.

Police arrested 12 of 149 passengers on the flight to Mumbai, which turned back to Amsterdam yesterday due to security concerns after the crew reported suspicious behaviour.

Authorities later said all 12 will be released.

Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma told reporters here the government had procured the names of all the 12 people and it was found that they were all born in Mumbai. ''They all had Mumbai addresses.'' However, it could not be immediately confirmed how many were Indian nationals and held Indian passports.

The Minister said the Indian embassy in Amsterdam had been provided consular access to the detained people by the government there.

Prosecutors today interrogated the 12 men.

Authorities have three days to bring the suspects before a judge to seek further detention. According to Dutch law if those arrested are deemed terror suspects, a judge could order them held for another 14 days without hard evidence.

The Mumbai-bound Northwest Airlines flight was over German air space yesterday when it turned around and returned to Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport after a group of passengers aroused suspicion by using their mobile phones following take-off, officials said.

The Defence Ministry said the plane's captain radioed Amsterdam requesting permission to return with a military escort, and jet fighters were scrambled from a northern Dutch military air field.

A US government official, on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, said that crew members and air marshals observed the passengers attempting to use cell phones and passing cell phones back and forth while the airliner was taking off. ''It was behaviour that average passengers wouldn't do,'' the official said.

Passengers on the diverted flight gave varying accounts. The Algemeen Dagblad newspaper quoted Nitin Patel of Boston, who sat behind the men in business class, as saying, ''I don't know how close we were, but my gut tells me these people wanted to hijack the airplane.'' However another passenger, who was not identified, told NOS television he sat next to one of the men and saw nothing suspicious.

A third, who identified herself only as Alpa, told a TV channel that some of the men appeared to be of South Asian ethnicity.

The Dutch national anti-terrorism office said it saw no reason to raise the country's threat level.

The Northwest Airlines flight 42 bound for Mumbai from Amsterdam with 149 passengers on board, will arrive in Mumbai by 2030 hrs today -22 hours late.

An e-mail received in Mumbai from Northwest Airlines said the flight departed at 0900 hrs from Amsterdam (local time) and will arrive at Mumbai at 2030 hours. The flight was delayed by 22 hours.

The e-mail further said that Northwest 41 Mumbai- Amsterdam flight which was scheduled to leave today will now depart Mumbai at 2230hrs on Aug 25 and arrive Amsterdam at 0500 hrs local time.

The total delay for NW41 is 46 hrs. Accomodatation would be provided to the passengers in Mumbai with five star hotel accommodation.

All other flights will operate on schedule, the e-mail added.

UNI Team RP PC2252

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