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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Dutch arrest 12 on US plane bound for India

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch police arrested 12 passengers on a U.S. Northwest Airlines plane bound for India which was forced to turn back to Amsterdam's Schiphol airport on Wednesday, news agency ANP reported.

ANP said a police spokesman said 12 were arrested, but declined to give further details due to the ongoing investigation. Dutch police were not immediately available to comment on the report.

The Dutch defense ministry said earlier the pilot decided to turn back after the crew said several of the 149 passengers on flight 42 to Mumbai were behaving suspiciously.

Security has been increased at airports worldwide in the last two weeks after British police said they had foiled a plot by British Muslims to blow up planes in the mid-Atlantic using liquid explosives disguised as drinks.

"Police took off a number of people on board and took them for questioning," the Dutch defense ministry said.

An airport spokeswoman said the return of the Northwest plane had not affected other flights at Schiphol, Europe's third largest cargo airport and fourth biggest passenger hub.

Dutch airport officials said the Northwest pilot decided to turn back his 273-seat DC10-30 when it was in German airspace.

A Northwest spokeswoman said passengers were staying in local hotels, adding Northwest would try the flight to Mumbai again on Thursday.

Last month serial bomb blasts hit commuter trains in Mumbai, killing more than 180 people. Indian police said on Tuesday they had foiled another possible attack in the city after they shot dead a suspected Pakistani national.


The Dutch Defense Ministry said it was keeping the national counter-terrorism coordinator informed. The government has not decided to take any extra security measures, it said.

The Netherlands' security alert level has been at "substantial" since bombings in London last year, the second highest in a four-stage warning system.

The Dutch secret service AIVD warned in March that the war in Iraq and the presence of Dutch troops in Afghanistan might motivate possible attacks and encourage the recruitment of home-grown Islamist militants.

There have been several scares since the British plot was uncovered, including at the Tri-State Airport in Huntington, West Virginia, on a Pacific Blue flight from Fiji to Sydney and on a British plane from London to Egypt diverted to Italy.

An Iberia Airlines flight bound for Madrid was turned back to the Netherlands in April after a woman raised the alarm about a passenger she thought was acting suspiciously. The passenger was later cleared of any wrongdoing.

The 2004 murder of a filmmaker critical of Islam by a Dutch Moroccan shook the country and highlighted the activities of home grown militants. Nine young Muslim men were sentenced to jail this year for belonging to a terrorist group.

British prosecutors investigating the plane bomb plot foiled earlier this month announced on Monday they were charging 11 people after police found bomb-making equipment, suicide notes and "martyrdom videos". No decision has yet been taken on whether to charge another 11 people who are still being held.

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