Flight forced back to Sydney in security scare

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The Independent Online

A United Airlines flight from Australia to Los Angeles returned to Sydney International Airport today after cabin staff found a note carrying a bomb threat.

A United Airlines flight from Australia to Los Angeles returned to Sydney International Airport today after cabin staff found a note carrying a bomb threat.

UA Flight 840, carrying 246 passengers, turned around "when an object which raised some security suspicions was found on board," the company said in a brief statement.

"As a precaution, the captain immediately returned to Sydney landing without incident. Further investigations will be carried out," United Airlines said.

The emergency came just days after a purported al-Qa'ida affiliate in Europe, the Tawhid Islamic Group, warned it would turn Australia into "pools of blood" if Canberra doesn't withdraw its troops from Iraq. Australian has nearly 900 military personnel in and around Iraq.

Australia's Transport Minister John Anderson said that the "object" discovered was a note carrying a bomb threat. He said an investigation would launched immediately.

Australian media reported the note was written on an air sickness bag found in or near one of the aircraft's toilets.

Anderson said the note carried "some words that implied that there might have been a bomb on board." He said he had not heard of any other threat directed at the flight.

Flights in and out of Sydney, Australia's busiest airport, were briefly halted during the emergency, Anderson said.

"The first point to make is everyone is safe and flights in Australia are now resuming," he added. "Things are returning to normal."

He said the plane was being searched but no bomb was immediately found.

"It is my hope that it is a hoax but we don't run those risks. Safety comes first," Anderson told Sydney radio station 2GB. "It does say something though about the sick minds that we occasionally have to deal with," he added.

There were no immediate reports of anybody on the flight being arrested. After landing, the Boeing 747 was parked at a remote spot at the airport and passengers were bused back to the terminal.

The plane, which took off at about 3 p.m. (0500 GMT) was 90 minutes into the flight when the pilot made the decision to return to Sydney, the airline statement said.

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