Washington: A United Airlines domestic flight landed safely in Denver after a disturbance on board by a passenger, but officials said the incident did not appear to be a serious security threat.
"It looks like the individual in question was perhaps smoking in the lavatory and might have made an unfortunate remark" once confronted by airline personnel, a US official said Wednesday.
United Flight 663, which originated from Washington's Reagan National Airport, arrived at about 9 p.m. EDT (0630 IST today) after two F-16 fighter jets were scrambled to intercept the Boeing 757 aircraft, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command which is responsible for safeguarding US airspace. ABC News, citing federal law enforcement officials, had reported earlier that US air marshals subdued a Qatari man who authorities say tried to "light his shoes on fire" on the flight.
CNN said the man identified as a mid-level Qatari diplomat, when asked why he was in the toilet so long, "said something about lighting his shoe on fire. "The plane was surrounded by security vehicles at Denver International Airport. "Law enforcement and TSA have responded to the scene and the passenger is currently in custody," the Transportation Security Administration said in a statement. "All steps are being taken to ensure the safety of the traveling public."
There were 157 passengers aboard the plane and six crew members, according to United. The latest aviation scare came amid heightened worries about attempts to attack the United States. US authorities have been on heightened alert after a Nigerian man, who had ties to an al Qaeda-affiliated group, tried to explode a bomb hidden in his underwear on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day last year.
In December 2001, Richard Reid, a self-admitted member of al Qaeda, was subdued on an trans-Atlantic flight diverted to Boston after attempting to detonate explosives hidden in his shoes. Reid pleaded guilty to eight counts related to terrorism and was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.