Thu, 08 Apr 2010 07:24:03 | PressTV
US air security authorities have scrambled military jets to force land an airliner after a passenger, a Qatari diplomat, lighted a cigarette in the aircraft's lavatory.
The US Northern Command authorized the escorting of a United Airlines Boeing 757 by two F-16 fighter jets after the pilot of the passenger plane signaled an in-flight incident, US media reported Wednesday.
The accident occurred when flight marshals subdued a man, identified later as Mohammed al-Modadi, a midlevel Qatari diplomat, over his alleged smoking in a bathroom and purportedly trying to cover up the smell by also lighting part of his shoes..
US officials said the Qatari diplomat joked about his remark and was just smoking a cigarette.
US media earlier reported that the man was subdued by federal air marshals while trying to detonate a shoe bomb, in an overreaction that is reported common in incidents involving individuals that look Muslim or Middle Eastern.
Later, a US official said the incident did not appear to be a serious security threat.
The official said the passenger was possibly smoking in the plane's toilet, and not trying to set off explosives.
The United flight, with 163 people aboard, landed at Denver International Airport as law enforcement agents took the man into custody for further questioning.