LONDON -- Britain scrambled fighter jets yesterday to intercept a commercial airliner carrying more than 300 people from Pakistan, diverting it to an isolated runway at an airport on the outskirts of London and arresting two British passengers who allegedly threatened to destroy the plane.
A British security official said the situation involving the Pakistan International Airlines flight did not appear terror-related, though police were still investigating. But the incident further rattled the U.K. just days after a soldier was killed on a London street in a suspected terror attack.
A Pakistani official briefed by British police and PIA security on the investigation said the two suspects, speaking Urdu, allegedly threatened to "destroy the plane" after an argument with crew.
Flight P709, with 297 passengers and 11 crew, was traveling from Lahore, Pakistan, to Manchester Airport when it was diverted by the fighter jets to Stansted Airport. The U.K. Ministry of Defense confirmed that Typhoon jets were launched to investigate an incident involving a civilian aircraft but gave no further details.
Passenger Nauman Rizvi told Pakistan's GEO TV that two men who had tried to move toward the cockpit during the flight were handcuffed and arrested once the plane landed. Rizvi said that after the men were taken away, the flight crew told passengers there had been a terrorist threat and that the pilot had raised an alarm.
Essex police said that after the Boeing 777 landed at 2:15 p.m. local time, armed officers entered it and arrested two British nationals, ages 30 and 41, on suspicion of endangering the aircraft.
The suspects were taken to a police station where they face questioning, the police said.
"This incident is being treated as a criminal offense," the police statement said.