Bomb Threats Force Two Unscheduled Landings, Delay Two Other Flights
GENEVA (AP) _ Bomb threats forced unscheduled landings at airports in Switzerland and Italy and delayed two departures from Geneva, authorities said today.
The Scandinavian airline SAS, prompted by a bomb threat reportedly from an Iranian Shiite Moslem group, maintained the highest alert in its history, causing flight delays for a third day.
Airlines have been especially sensitive to threats since a bomb exploded aboard a Pan Am jumbo jet on Dec. 21, killing 270 people on board and in the Scottish village of Lockerbie.
″In most cases, such calls prove to be a hoax,″ said Peter Gutknecht, spokesman at Kloten airport. ″But we have to take every threat seriously.″
An Alitalia DC-9 was on a flight from Paris to Venice when the pilot was told by Munich air controllers of an anonymous bomb threat and decided to land at Kloten airport in Zurich, Switzerland. The flight continued early today after a search.
A Tunis Air Boeing 737, on a flight from Geneva to Tunis, took off today morning following a 10-hour stopover at Milan’s Malpensa airport during which Italian bomb disposal experts determined no explosives were aboard.
Another anonymous threat forced about 30 passengers of an Istanbul-bound Pan Am Boeing 727 to spend the night at Geneva hotels. Their flight continued this morning after the plane was searched.
The departure of a 727 of the British charter airline Dan Air with about 170 British children returning from a Swiss holiday was delayed by several hours Monday after Geneva police received a telephone call from a man who said security forces had 15 minutes to evacuate the plane. Police said the caller identified himself as a member of the Irish Republican Army, which is fighting to end British rule of Northern Ireland.
The plane was searched, but no bomb was found.
Passengers flying Scandinavian Airlines System from some 90 airports worldwide were asked to identify their luggage before it was loaded onto planes, and cargo was undergoing extra scrutiny, SAS officials said.
Domestic fliers in Sweden took their own baggage to the aircraft, and unattended bags were hustled into secure areas and x-rayed.
SAS spokesman Knut Lovstuhagen said delays were ″minimal - up to 30 minutes.″
The heightened security measures began Sunday after a telephone caller told police in Budapest on New Year’s Eve that SAS would be the target of a bomb attempt.
In Manila, Philippine Airlines today released the names of four people that officials say may be members of a Palestinian faction planning to hijack or blow up an Asian airliner this month.
Airline spokesman Rollie Estabillio said the four are believed to be members of a Palestine Liberation Organization faction led by Abu Musa, who is supported by Syria and Libya. Estabillio said the names were provided by Japanese authorities.