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US plane to Mumbai grounded; 12 held

Last updated on: August 23, 2006 23:32 IST

The Dutch police have arrested 12 passengers from a Northwest Airlines flight bound for Mumbai, after it was escorted to Amsterdam minutes after take off.

Earlier, Dutch F-16s escorted the flight to Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport on Wednesday, and authorities detained several passengers for questioning.

The flight from Amsterdam to Mumbai with 149 passengers on board returned to Amsterdam after a couple of passengers "displayed behaviour of concern", the airlines statement said.

Airport authorities said several passengers on the flight were taken off the plane for questioning while others underwent questioning at the gate.

Northwest Airlines cancelled its Mumbai-bound flight No 42 which returned shortly after take off following a security alarm. "Flight No 42 is being cancelled for today (Wednesday) but will be travelling to Mumbai tomorrow (Thursday)," the airlines said in a statement. Most of the passengers were accommodated in hotels in Amsterdam.

Agency reports said the plane was in German airspace when it was turned back.  A spokeswoman for Schiphol said the pilot had taken the decision to turn back but could give no further details.

Several passengers on Northwest Airlines flight NW42 were taken off the aircraft for questioning and other passengers were questioned at the gate.

The pilot radioed for permission to return to Schiphol and sought an escort of jet fighters when the crew became suspicious about some passengers, the Dutch defence ministry and airport officials said.

The Northwest Airlines DC 10 turned around after crossing the German border and security measures were quickly put in place at the Schiphol airport.

"A number of (passengers) behaved, in the opinion of the crew, in a suspicious manner," said a Dutch defence ministry statement. "As a result, the captain asked to return to Schiphol. The customs police have taken a number of people off the plane for questioning."

Airline and airport officials did not comment on whether the crew's apprehensions were justified. The customs police said no one was arrested after the plane landed.

The Dutch National Terrorism Coordinator's Office said the incident involving the Northwest flight was not a reason to raise the national threat level, which was currently at "light threat".

With PTI inputs

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