x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Threat grounds Emirates jet in UK

Police continue to question three men arrested on suspicion of making a bomb threat on board a Dubai-bound Emirates plane moments before it was to take off from London.

DUBAI // Police yesterday continued to question three men arrested on suspicion of making a bomb threat on board a Dubai-bound Emirates plane moments before it was to take off from London's Heathrow Airport. The men, ages 58, 48 and 36, were arrested on-board by armed police on Friday evening after allegedly making verbal threats to the cabin crew while the plane was taxiing.

A search of the plane revealed nothing suspicious, but the 331 passengers were taken to a hotel for the night and rescheduled for another flight at 3pm London time yesterday. The men are believed to be British nationals who are not residents of the UAE. Cameron McLean, a passenger, told Sky News: "Police just swarmed the guy and rushed him out. I think he was a white male. There was another one but I didn't see him."

He said the man was taken out in handcuffs and sniffer dogs were brought on board. A representative for the Metropolitan Police yesterday said no charges have been brought and that further details would be issued only if that happened. A statement released by Emirates apologised for the inconvenience, adding that "the safety and security of all our passengers is paramount". Airport security measures have been tightened worldwide following Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's alleged attempt to detonate a device stitched into his underwear on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day.

The Nigerian pleaded not guilty to six charges related to the incident in court on Friday. Heathrow airport will receive full-body scanners before the end of the month, and the machines will eventually be in all British airports. In October, an Emirates passenger was sentenced to three months in prison for claiming to be wearing an explosive belt after drinking large amounts of alcohol on a flight from Tunis to Dubai. The man was also accused of slapping a passenger and fighting with the cabin crew who tried to restrain him during the flight, and of endangering other passengers.

In May last year an Australian flight attendant, Matthew Carney, was jailed after pleading guilty to "inducing a false belief that an object liable to explode" was on board his Emirates flight from Dubai to London. The claim sparked a mid-air emergency at 30,000 feet, reportedly costing the airline tens of thousands of dirhams in arranging alternative flights for the 164 passengers who were detained while counter-terrorist officers carried out the necessary checks.

loatway@thenational.ae