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Men taken off US Northwest flight Airlines interrogated

Written by: Staff
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London, Aug 24 (UNI) Prosecutors have today interrogated the 12 men who were handcuffed and taken off a US airliner enroute to Mumbai, in Amsterdam because US air marshals and the crew believed they were acting suspiciously, a spokesperson said.

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.

Haarlem prosecutor's spokesperson Ed Hartjes refused to say whether the men would face terrorism charges. ''The investigation is still going on and at this moment we do not know anything more than yesterday,'' he said.

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.

UNI XC SIRN1845

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