It was mid-air paranoia, not terror | india | Hindustan Times
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It was mid-air paranoia, not terror

india Updated: Aug 25, 2006 14:21 IST
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ALL 12 PASSENGERS detained by the Dutch police, following a "security alert" aboard a Mumbai-bound airliner, are Indians. But a day after the dramatic return of Flight No. 42 of the US's Northwest Airlines to Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, the reason for detention is not terror-related. So what provoked the panicky reaction and detention? Apparently, an exchange of mobile phones among the 12 passengers.

On Thursday, the Dutch government said there was no terror threat aboard the plane and it would not be pressing charges on the 12 passengers. They would be released soon.

Anand Sharma, MoS for External Affairs, said all but two of them were residents of Mumbai. Others were from Bahraich in UP and Manama, Bahrain.

The 12 passengers were detained when the crew raised an alarm that the passengers were displaying "behaviour of concern". According to Dutch media , the passengers were fidgeting with mobile phones, and US air marshals, who were aboard, swooped on them.

Witnesses said the passengers' behaviour raised alarm. What was left unsaid was the paranoia and the increasing suspicion towards non-whites in the West following the plot to blow up transatlantic airliners.

Among the passengers was Tim Nelson, who had alerted the FBI about Zacharias Moussaoui, involved in 9/11. Nelson told McClatchy Newspapers that he could not tell if the crew was responding to a serious threat or "it was just a misunderstanding, where you had unsophisticated people flying".

Meanwhile, relatives of the 12 passengers claimed that they were innocent and not involved in any wrongdoing. Irfan, a city-based businessman, said the 12 detained passengers were his friends and had gone abroad on a business trip.

Irfan, staying in Memon colony at suburban Jogeshwari in Mumbai, said none of them was involved in wrong doings. "Maybe they were playing pranks among themselves which  might have aroused suspicion about their behaviour,” he said.

Imran Chappalwala, brother of Sajid Chappalwala, one of the 12 detained passengers, said his brother had gone abroad to put up a stall in an international fair in West Indies. “He was returning to Mumbai via Amsterdam”, he said. “All the 12 are into export-import business and have been detained on frivolous grounds,” said Imran. “We are all genuine people who do business in South Africa, Mauritius and West Indies. We have been living in Mumbai for the past 30 years.”

Northwest Airlines cancelled its Mumbai-bound flight that returned to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport and is making arrangements to accommodate passengers on other airlines. Northwest also cancelled its flight from Mumbai to Amsterdam scheduled to leave on Thursday. The airline is making arrangements to re-book the passengers.