August 18, 2006

Sick bag note causes UK airliner bomb scare

ROME (Reuters) - A bomb threat scrawled on a sick bag
caused a British passenger plane from London to Egypt to be
diverted to southern Italy on Friday, but police said it
appeared to be a false alarm.

"The alarm has been called off," said Brindisi border
police chief Salvatore de Paolis.

The charter flight from London's Gatwick airport to
Hurghada in Egypt with 269 passengers on board was escorted to
Brindisi by an Italian jet fighter after the pilot raised the
alarm by radio to air traffic controllers in Zagreb.

The passengers were evacuated immediately after landing in
Italy and anti-terrorist police inspected the aircraft with the
airport fire brigade on standby.

But budget airline Excel said it was only a precaution
taken after a passenger found a threatening note written on a
sick bag in a seat pocket.

"It is all over," said a spokeswoman for Excel. "The checks
have gone on and once it is all cleared the passengers are
going back onto the aircraft and it will resume its journey --
sooner rather than later, we hope."

Airlines traveling in and out of Britain have been on even
higher alert than usual since police there said they had foiled
a major plot to carry out suicide bombings on planes bound for
the United States using liquid explosives disguised as drinks.

Excel Airways, owned by Icelandic investment firm Avion,
said that with airlines and passengers all "slightly anxious at
the moment" the captain felt it best to have the plane searched
"so that everybody would feel comfortable about carrying on."

(Additional reporting by Philip Pullella, Robin Pomeroy,
Massimo Di Giorgo, Nicola Scevola and Jason Neely)