Timeline of The 2006 Transatlantic Aircraft Plot - Late August - 23 August

23 August

  • Dutch police said that 12 passengers were in custody after a Northwest Airlines flight bound for Mumbai, India, returned to Amsterdam with a fighter jet escort, Dutch police said, when several people on board aroused concern. They have not been formally charged, police said. But an airport policeman said authorities have enough information to hold the 12 for at until 26 August. The passengers who were arrested were looking into plastic bags and were busy with their cell phones, an airline source in Amsterdam said. The spokesman said the 12—whose identities have not been made public—face preliminary charges, but did not elaborate. Flight 42 returned to Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport after "a couple of passengers displayed behavior of concern," according to Northwest Airlines. Some of the passengers pulled out cell phones during the flight and appeared to be trying to pass the cell phones to other passengers, a U.S. government official said. In addition, some passengers unfastened their seatbelts while the light requiring they be fastened was still illuminated, the official said. That was enough for U.S. air marshals aboard the DC-10 to break their cover. Flight attendants ordered the passengers to heed the orders of the marshals, the official added. There was no intelligence indicating the flight was at risk, and authorities are still evaluating how much of a threat the passengers posed, officials said. In a recording of communications between the pilot and air traffic controllers circulated among Dutch media, the pilot is asked if he wants fire trucks on the runway when he lands, The Associated Press reported. "No, sir," he replied, according to the AP. "Northwest is cooperating with the appropriate government officials," the company's statement said. The flight, which originated in Northwest's main hub of Minneapolis-St. Paul 22 August, landed at Schiphol around noon (6 a.m. ET), about half an hour after it had left, TSA said. "The flight returned to Amsterdam and landed normally. Northwest is cooperating with the appropriate government officials," the Northwest statement said. There were 149 passengers on board, Northwest said.
  • A spokeswoman for Schiphol Airport said the pilot had made the request to return to Amsterdam. A team of U.S. federal air marshals was on board and, along with the crew members, observed suspicious activity shortly after take-off, according to an unnamed U.S. government official. The official would not elaborate on the nature of the activity. According to the official, the crew told passengers to follow the instructions of the air marshals after at least one member of the team identified himself as a marshal. At that point, the pilot diverted the plane. As a matter of security, the Federal Air Marshal Service does not confirm which flights are patrolled by air marshals. In general, federal air marshals do not identify themselves to passengers if they believe the crew can handle a situation without assistance.

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