LONDON (REUTERS/AP) - British fighter jets escorted a Pakistan International Airlines passenger plane to Stansted Airport near London on Friday, where police went on board and arrested two men on suspicion of endangering an aircraft.
Flight PK709 from Lahore in Pakistan had been due to land at Manchester in northern England with 297 passengers on board, but was diverted shortly before arrival. A security source said early indications were that the plane was not the target of a terrorist attack.
Britain is on high alert after a soldier was hacked to death on a London street on Wednesday in what the government are treating as a terrorist incident.
“Essex Police have boarded a passenger plane diverted to Stansted Airport and two men have been arrested on suspicion of endangerment of an aircraft. They have been removed from the plane,” the police said in a statement. The force is responsible for the area where Stansted is located.
Stansted is one of London’s less busy airports, preferred as a location for handling airplane security incidents. A spokesman for the airport said the plane was being held in an isolated area and that the rest of the airport was operating as normal.
Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said 10 fire engines had been sent to the airport.
The Pakistani plane was a Boeing 777, according to the flight tracking website www.flightradar.com
Britain launches military planes to intercept unidentified aircraft when they cannot be identified by other means, for example when the aircraft is not talking to air traffic controllers.
Pakistan International Airlines confirmed that its Flight P709 travelling from Lahore to Manchester was involved. Spokesman Mashood Tajwar said the airline has been unable to contact the pilot of the airplane despite repeated attempts, adding that 297 passengers and 11 crew are on board the flight.