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Qatari diplomat causes security scare on US flight

Two F-16 fighter jets scrambled to intercept Denver-bound aircraft after man allegedly tried to set his shoes on fire mid-flight.

April 8, 2010 7:54 by

A Qatari diplomat caused a mid-flight security scare last night after he allegedly tried to set fire to his shoes, in what has not yet been ruled out as an attempted terror attack.

Two US F-16 fighter jets were scrambled to intercept Denver-bound United Airlines flight 663, which originated from Washington’s Reagan National Airport.

The Qatari man, who has not been named, raised suspicions after locking himself in the toilets for a long period of time, as the smell of smoke filled the cabin.

ABC News reported that plainclothes US air marshals subdued the man, who authorities said tried to set his shoes on fire. However, this allegation was later dismissed as stemming from “an unfortunate remark” made by the Qatari. Some reports suggest that the man was smoking a cigarette, rather than launching an attack.

It is still not clear whether the man posed a serious security threat.

Police and security officials surrounded the plane upon landing at Denver International Airport, and the man was taken into custody and is being questioned by the FBI.

Bomb-sniffing dogs found no traces of explosives aboard the aircraft, and security officials did not confirm that an attempted act of terrorism had taken place. CNN reported that explosives had not been found in his shoes.

The US authorities are increasingly edgy about air-borne terrorism after a Nigerian man was arrested for trying to set off explosives hidden in his underwear on a flight to Detroit in December 2009.

In 2001, Richard Reid, a self-confessed member of al-Qaeda, was subdued on a trans-Atlantic flight, after attempting to detonate explosives hidden in his shoes.

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