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Inflight meal fight spills over

Abu Dhabi, Dec. 22 (Reuters): Security officers in Abu Dhabi today detained two male passengers who angrily threatened to blow up a Royal Jordanian Airlines plane because they were unhappy with the inflight meal.

The official UAE news agency said that during an argument with a crew member, the disgruntled passengers said that if they had a bomb, they would blow up the plane. Guards on board the plane promptly seized the men who are currently being held at Abu Dhabi International Airport in the United Arab Emirates.

The incident comes at a time of heightened security concerns in the Gulf region and rising tension as the US threatens military action against Iraq if it does not disarm. Abu Dhabi airport director Khaled al-Muhairabi said the men were being detained for the hoax.

“We received information there was a bomb on board, the plane was taken to an isolated area and searched and nothing was found,” he said. “Two passengers were detained and they are in custody. They are detained for issuing a threat.”

The flight, with 173 passengers and crew on board, was bound for Dubai from Amman via Abu Dhabi. Civil aviation officials confirmed the plane landed at Dubai airport but prevented the media from speaking to the passengers or crew.

Jordan’s official news agency Petra identified the men as Mohammad Ramadan and Abdul Naser Faraj and said both were Libyans. It said they were transit passengers from Tripoli.

“A few minutes before landing in Abu Dhabi one of the Libyan passengers Mohammad Ramadan said they had bombs and planned to hijack the plane,” Petra said.

In Amman, Royal Jordanian president and CEO Samer Majali said the incident was a prank. “We are very relieved,” he said.

“We are awaiting a full report from the Abu Dhabi authorities on the incident. Jordanian authorities will be fully involved in the investigations as soon as is practically possible.”

Gulf Arab states and Jordan have pledged their support to the US in its war on terrorism since the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington.

A statement on the official UAE news agency WAM detailed the incident, confirming there were no explosives on board.

“About 17 miles off Abu Dhabi, the pilot sent a warning saying there was a possible bomb on board. The plane landed, it and the passengers were searched and at about 7 am, it was declared clear. It was all a hoax,” a UAE official added.

Two alleged operatives from the al Qaida network of Osama bin Laden were arrested in Jordan earlier this month on suspicion of killing an American diplomat in Amman in October.

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