Pakistan Airlines plane alert: Suspects' custody extended

Passenger: "Pilot announced there had been some kind of threat"

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Two men continue to be questioned on suspicion of endangerment of an aircraft after RAF Typhoon jets escorted a passenger plane over the UK.

Police boarded Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight, originally en-route to Manchester from Lahore, after it was diverted to Stansted on Friday.

Both suspects are British nationals, aged 30 and 41, Essex Police said.

The force confirmed their custody had been extended for 12 hours, from about 04:00 BST.

Passengers returned to the plane about midnight and continued to Manchester.

There has been no official confirmation that passengers heard threats were made on board the aircraft.

The plane was scheduled to leave Lahore - the capital of the Pakistani province of Punjab - at 09:35 local time (05:35 BST) on Friday and had been due to arrive in Manchester at 13:30 BST.

'Landed safely'

One passenger told the BBC the pilot had informed them there had been threats.

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

Supt Darrin Tomkins: "At this point no suspicious items have been recovered"

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

The plane remained at a spot on the north side of Stansted Airport with flights carrying on as normal, before being released by police allowing passengers to be flown to Manchester.

On arrival, one passenger told the BBC there had been a "strong argument between the crew and one passenger".

Another said it was a "fuss about nothing", adding that the pilot had "over exaggerated".

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Pakistan International Airlines flight PK709: Diverted route
Map of Pakistan International Airlines flight PK709's diverted route
  • 1. Pakistan International Airlines flight PK709 was due to arrive at Manchester Airport at 13:30 BST after leaving Lahore, Pakistan, at about 09:35 local time (05:35 BST)
  • 2. After an alert was raised, the flight was diverted to London Stansted Airport, in Essex, and Typhoon jets from RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, were scrambled to escort the plane
  • 3. After the plane landed at London Stansted, two men were arrested by police on suspicion of endangerment of an aircraft
line break

PIA said there had been 308 passengers on board, as well as 14 crew including pilots, with a mixture of Pakistani and British passport holders.

'Quick reaction alert'

An MoD spokesman said Typhoon jets could be scrambled after the pilot or crew of a passenger aircraft sends out an emergency signal.

"The purpose of going up is to investigate what the situation is," he said.

RAF Typhoon jet RAF Typhoon jets were scrambled to escort the airliner to Stansted

RAF Typhoon jets were scrambled to escort the airliner to Stansted.

"Often when a quick reaction alert aircraft is launched the details are not known, but it is known that a signal has been sent."

In 2011, two PIA passenger planes were the subject of bombs threat coming from Pakistan.

A Boeing 777, with the same flight number as in the latest incident, carrying 347 passengers plus crew and bound for Manchester from Lahore was forced to land at Ataturk International airport in Istanbul.

The second plane, carrying 176 passengers, landed safely at its destination in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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