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Page last updated at 22:26 GMT, Friday, 9 April 2010 23:26 UK

Qatari plane bomb-scare diplomat to leave US

Mohammed al-Madadi
The US state department said Qatar had decided to "reassign" Mr Madadi

A Qatari diplomat who sparked a security alert on board a plane in the US after joking he had a bomb is to leave the country, US officials say.

Mohammed al-Madadi reportedly smoked a cigarette in a toilets and then joked about setting fire to his shoes.

Two F-16 fighter jets were scrambled to intercept the United Airlines plane, en route from Washington to Denver.

Mr Madadi was detained by an air marshal and later released without charge. No explosives were found.

The US state department said Qatar had decided to "reassign" Mr Madadi, 27, the third secretary at its embassy in Washington.

Although it added that he was not engaged in terrorist activity, spokesman Philip Crowley earlier told reporters: "We are satisfied with the seriousness by which they take what has occurred."

Unnamed US officials told the Associated Press that Mr Madadi had been on his way to attend a meeting with Ali al-Marri, a Qatari citizen imprisoned in the US for conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organisation.

'Smell of smoke'

Investigators were told that when Mr Madadi was asked about the smell of smoke in the plane's toilet, he made a joke that he had been trying to light his shoes, according to AP - an apparent reference to the "shoe bomber", Richard Reid.

Reid, a British citizen, was jailed for life in the US in 2003 after admitting attempting to blow up a transatlantic jet using bombs hidden in his shoes two years earlier.

The plane involved in Wednesday's incident, with more than 160 passengers and crew on board, was met on arrival at Denver International Airport by police.

The scare came just months after a Nigerian man allegedly tried to detonate a bomb inside his underwear on a US passenger plane.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, was overpowered by passengers and crew shortly before the Northwest Airlines plane landed in Detroit from Amsterdam on 25 December. He has been charged with attempting to destroy a plane.



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