ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistani authorities have uncovered a plot by a small terror cell to hijack a plane en route to the United Arab Emirates (search) and possibly blow it up, the prime minister said Wednesday.
Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali (search) told The Associated Press in an interview that authorities believe there was a group of about four to six people who wanted to hijack a plane. Intelligence indicated they wanted to blow it up, he said.
Jamali had no details on how close the plotters came to carrying out the attack.
Details of the plot came a day after Pakistan said it was beefing up security at 35 airports nationwide. Airports remained open and flights were not disrupted, although security was raised to its highest level, Jamali said.
"Naturally when one gets some hint about (a plot) or one gets a feeler or is informed directly or indirectly, I think this high alert is a must," he said.
The United Arab Emirates is the main financial hub of the Arab world. Dubai also is a regional transit hub and a destination for several flights most days from the Pakistani cities of Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore.
In March, the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the consulate in Dubai briefly shut their doors after receiving a "specific threat," though there was no indication it was connected to the recent Pakistani alert.
The United States has had friendly relations with the UAE since 1971, and the UAE military has provided humanitarian assistance in Iraq.
Jamali did not say whether the plot involved Pakistanis or foreign terrorists.
"Hijackers have no nationality," he said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul Rauf Chaudhry told AP that a Pakistani intelligence agency had issued the warning, but no arrests had been made. He also would not reveal whether the plotters were believed to be linked to Al Qaeda.
Pakistan has been beset by a string of terror attacks since President Gen. Pervez Musharraf (search) threw his support behind the U.S. war on terror following the Sept. 11 attacks.
Musharraf survived two suicide attacks in December that he blamed on Al Qaeda. Dozens of people have been killed in attacks on foreigners and minority Christians.
A bus bombing killed three Chinese engineers working on a major port project in the remote southwest Monday.
In March, a bomb was found and defused outside the U.S. Consulate in Karachi.