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Pakistani plane forced to land near London, two held

By:  Tupaki Desk   |   24 May 2013 6:21 PM GMT
Britain had to scramble fighter jets Friday to escort a Pakistani International Airlines (PIA) plane down to land after it was diverted from Manchester. Later, two people were arrested from aboard the aircraft on suspicion of endangering the flight.

The Royal Air Force Typhoon jets were scrambled to escort the passenger plane, originally heading from Pakistan's Lahore city to Britain's Manchester city.

Police boarded the PIA flight PK709 after it was diverted to Stansted airport, BBC reported.

The two suspects, who are British nationality holder Pakistanis, were arrested after they reportedly had a spat with the cabin crew, reported Geo News.

They had allegedly threatened to bomb the plane with explosives. A panicked stewardess alarmed the pilot, who sent a stress signal to London control tower triggering the security alert, which led to the force-landing of the plane, said PIA sources.

The plane, carrying 297 passengers and 11 crew members, had left Lahore at 09.35 a.m. and was due in at Manchester at 2.00 p.m. (British Standard Time).

The Essex police said the two were aged 30 and 41. But there was no immediate official confirmation of what happened on board.

According to a BBC correspondent, there was a suggestion that there had been threats on board during the flight, involving some sort of weapon or bomb - although this had not been confirmed.

However, one passenger said the pilot had informed them there had been threats.

"We were about half an hour away from landing in Manchester and we saw that the plane was taking different actions. We did not know anything about it other than the pilots announced that they have landed at Stansted," he said.

"And we landed, safely. Then he announced that he had a threat from someone, which was why he had landed the plane."

Another passenger told Sky News that cabin crew said two men had repeatedly tried to get into the cockpit.

"The cabin crew informed us that basically they tried to come into the cockpit a few times and because they had been asked not to do that, they got into a bit of an argument with the crew and made a few threats."

Stansted airport said the pilot alerted the authorities to the incident, but it did not say what that incident was.

Earlier, a Manchester airport spokesperson said: "A Pakistan International Airlines aircraft which was due to land at Manchester airport at 13.30 BST today has been diverted to our sister airport London Stansted, where the authorities are investigating."