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Five seek asylum after threat diverts flight to UK


Five passengers from a flight that was forced to make an emergency landing in Scotland after the discovery of a threat to start a fire on board are now claiming asylum in Britain, police have revealed.

The Egypt Air Boeing 777 was on its way to New York’s JFK airport after taking off in Cairo when it was rerouted to Prestwick Airport in Ayrshire after the security scare. The diversion happened on Saturday after a passenger found a note in the toilet reading: “I’ll set this plane on fire.”

The aircraft was allowed to continue on its journey to the US on Sunday morning after an overnight police search found no suspicious items.

But before taking off again a spokeswoman for Police Scotland said five of the plane’s passengers, who are understood to be Syrian, had sought asylum in Britain. They are now being dealt with by the UK Border Agency while police continue to investigate the circumstances of the incident.

After the discovery of the threatening note the Egypt Air flight was escorted to Prestwick by Typhoon fighters from RAF Leuchars.

The aircraft landed at about 2.30pm on Saturday and was met by a large number of police officers. It took six hours before all 326 people on board were removed from the plane to be interviewed by police.

The note was found by Nada Tafik, who works for the BBC. Ms Tafik told the Corporation: “When I went in to change my daughter about three hours into the flight, I found a note by the sink saying ‘I set this plane on fire’ with the seat number 46D written on it. So I immediately went to the crew and told them about it.

“It was on a hand napkin written in pencil and the pencil was actually still there so I told the crew to make sure to keep it so they can get any fingerprints off of it. They locked the bathroom immediately so that no one could go into it.”

Ms Tafif added: “It almost looked like a child’s handwriting or someone who has very sloppy handwriting, but it was very alarming, especially these days when everyone is so concerned about safety on flights.”

Iain Cochrane, chief executive of  Glasgow Prestwick, said: “We carefully plan and train for this kind of eventuality and I am relieved it ended safely and without incident.”