Qatari diplomat sparks bomb scare on US plane

Qatari diplomat sparks bomb scare on US plane

Qatari diplomat sparks bomb scare on US plane

In this image taken from MSNBC video on Wednesday April 7, 2010, shows authorities responding to a plane disturbance on United Flight 663 at the Denver International Airport. AP

The diplomat was subdued by air marshals aboard the flight and then arrested at the Denver airport but no explosives were found on him, officials said. The flight was coming from Washington.

The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), federal authorities said.

The mid-level diplomat identified as Mohammed al Modadi, has full diplomat immunity as 3rd secretary and vice-consul.

As panic gripped mid-air, the US Air Force rushed two F-16 fighters under the direction of North American Aerospace Defense Command to intercept the Denver-bound airliner.

The Boeing 757 carrying 157 passengers and six crew members took off from Reagan National Airport in Washington.

According to CNN, initial reports were that the incident involved an attempt to set a shoe on fire, but there were later indications that the situation may have resulted from a misunderstanding involving smoking during the flight.

The Fox News said the Qatari diplomat was trying to sneak a smoke in an airplane bathroom which sparked a bomb scare on the flight.

Officials said air marshals aboard the flight restrained the man and he was questioned.

Later a FBI official was quoted as saying by the ABC news that no explosives were found in the shoes of the Qatari diplomat who was allegedly quoted as saying: "I'm lighting my shoes on fire".

The Transportation Safety Administration in a statement said it is monitoring the incident and said initial reports described a passenger possibly causing a disturbance.

Noting that the flight landed safely at Denver International Airport, the TSA said: "Law enforcement and TSA have responded to the scene and the passenger is currently in custody. All steps are being taken to ensure the safety of the traveling public".

US officials said it is too early to arrive at a definite conclusion if this was a terrorist attempt or just a misunderstanding.

The incident came months after a Nigerian national made a failed attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound plane mid air on Christmas Day.