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Northwest Airlines Terror Suspects Released

Friday, August 25th, 2006 at 10:07 by Sarah Malaise

Twelve men of Indian origin, detained in the Netherlands after sparking a terror alert on a Northwest Airlines flight, have been released.

The DC-10 had made an emergency return to Schiphol Airport on Wednesday, escorted by two Dutch fighter jets, after air marshals had apprehended the men. They were arrested and escorted off the plane in handcuffs.

The dirty dozen aroused suspicion due to their behaviour shortly after the plane took off, ignoring the instructions of the cabin crew to fasten their seatbelts, and passing between them a number of laptops and mobile phones. By coincidence, they were speaking Urdu and dressed in clothing commonly associated with South Asian Muslims. Most of them had beards, and in some shocking cases, even wore baseball caps.

Fellow passengers reported that the group cheered when one of the mobiles rang, and attracted concern by passing around plastic bags, which they kept looking into and laughing.

“I thought that the men were celebrating a stag party,” Simon Balakrishwan, also from India, told a Dutch newspaper.

After interrogation of the men and thorough investigations of phones and computer equipment, prosecutors concluded that there had been no terrorist threat. The plane was also thoroughly examined for explosives, but none were found.

“From the statements of suspects and witnesses, no evidence could be brought forward that these men were about to commit an act of violence. Therefore the decision has been made to release the menā? said prosecutor Ed Hartjes.

In related news, Sohail Ashraf and Khurram Zeb, both 22, have demanded an apology from Monarch Airlines after being thrown off a flight from Malaga for acting suspiciously last week.

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