AMMAN, Jordan – A fight between a passenger and flight attendants on a Qatar Airways plane sparked a hijacking scare Thursday, prompting the plane to return to Amman on a day of increased tensions on flights after a foiled terror plot in Britain.
Initial reports from airport security officials and an airline spokesman said the man, identified as an Eritrean, tried to force his way into the cockpit carrying a canister that the officials said contained a liquid.
But Jordanian government spokesman Nasser Judeh told The Associated Press that it "was a quarrel and not a hijacking attempt" and that the liquid was medicine.
The scare came hours after Britain announced it had foiled a major terrorist plot to blow up airplanes headed to the United States from London's Heathrow Airport. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the terrorists planned to use liquid explosives disguised as beverages and other common products and set them off with detonators disguised as electronic devices. (Full story)
The Eritrean man had tried to go to a bathroom 10 minutes after the flight took off from Amman for the Qatari capital, Doha, Judeh said.
When the attendants told the passenger he could not leave his seat yet, he pushed an attendant to the ground before others restrained him, Judeh said. The pilot returned the plane to Amman, where the man was detained.
Airport security officials confirmed the story, saying the man started screaming that he wanted to speak to the pilot to complain about the flight attendants for stopping him.
The man told security officials he was furious over what he called "brutal treatment" by the flight attendants and had demanded to talk to the pilot to complain. When he tried to head toward the cabin, it sparked fears of a hijacking attempt, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.