F-16 Fighting Falcon News

RNLAF F-16s escort Northwest jet back to Shiphol

August 28, 2006 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Dutch F-16s escorted a Northwest Airlines flight bound for India back to Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport on Wednesday, and authorities later detained twelve passengers for questioning.

Schiphol airport spokeswoman Mirjam Snoerwang said the passengers had been escorted from the plane by customs police after the plane landed safely.

The plane was turned around after "a couple of passengers displayed behavior of concern," according to Northwest Airlines.

A team of U.S.air marshals who were on board Wednesday's flight and, along with the crew members, appear to have observed suspicious activity shortly after take-off. They reportedly had aroused that suspicion by getting out their cellular phones in flight.

At least one air marshal broke cover as a result of the incidents and took charge of on-board activity, at the direction of the crew.

The 273-seat DC-10-30 plane, bound for Mumbai, was carrying 149 passengers. The flight originated in Northwest's main hub of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in Minnesota a day earlier, and returned to Schiphol around noon, about half-an-hour after it had left the airport.

So far, Dutch police have not released any details of what occurred on board but twelve suspects were taken off the plane for questioning.

The Dutch National Terrorism Coordinator's Office was informed, but said there was no reason to raise the national threat level, their spokeswoman Judith Sluiter said.

"It is the same as it was before -light threat," said Sluiter.

Like airports around the world, Schiphol raised the level of security two weeks ago when British police announced they had uncovered a plot to blow up several U.S.-bound commercial jetliners, but Kuypers said threat levels had returned to normal.

The Dutch secret service AIVD warned in March that the war in Iraq and the presence of Dutch troops in Afghanistan might motivate possible attacks and encourage the recruitment of home-grown Islamist militants.