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Sunday, 23 December, 2001, 04:33 GMT
Explosives scare forces down plane
A passenger from American Airlines Flight 63 (left) at Logan airport
Passengers helped to subdue the man
An American Airlines plane has diverted to Boston after explosives were found in a passenger's shoe.

Flight 63 was bound from Paris to Miami, carrying 185 passengers and 12 crew.

The Boeing 767 plane was escorted in to land at Boston's Logan airport by two F-15 fighter jets.

They X-rayed the shoe and found that in the heel, there were holes drilled, and there looked to be a detonator wire, and the substances consistent with [the explosive] C-4

Airport official Laura White

Correspondents say the incident will fuel American and British fears that so-called "sleepers" working for Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network are planning to follow up the 11 September attacks with more atrocities.

Authorities are investigating whether the man was of Middle Eastern descent and said he was travelling on a false British passport, issued in the name of Richard Reid in Belgium three weeks ago.

A spokeswoman was unable to say whether the British embassy in Brussels had issued such a passport three weeks ago, or whether a man called Richard Reid had reported that his passport had been stolen.

A spokeswoman for Britain's Foreign Office told the Associated Press it was seeking consular access as was customary in cases involving UK citizens.

The White House said President George W Bush had been kept fully informed.

It emerged that earlier this month, the US authorities warned airliners of the possibility that hijackers might try to hide weapon components in their shoes.

Strapped to a seat

Tom Kinton, director of aviation at Logan, said the crew on board had subdued the passenger and prevented "something serious" from happening.

Mr Kinton said that the man, apparently in his late twenties, had attempted to ignite an "improvised explosive" in his footwear.

The flight attendants and passengers who helped subdue the suspect showed great bravery and poise in what was obviously a very dangerous situation

Massachusetts Acting Governor Jane Swift

"I'm told the flight attendant was drawn to him by the smell of sulphur from a lit match, and then challenged him as to what he was doing," said Mr Kinton.

The flight attendant also saw a wire or detonation cord sticking out of the shoe.

The 1.95 metre (6 ft 4 in) man became violent when tackled by cabin staff, resisting and biting one woman flight attendant.

Passengers help to control him by strapping him into a seat, some of them using their belts, where he was sedated by two doctors.

Massachusetts Acting Governor Jane Swift praised the pose and bravery of those who subdued the man.

USS Cole explosive

The man, who was travelling alone and without any luggage, is now being questioned by officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

An X-ray of the shoe revealed enough explosives to cause significant destruction.

"They X-rayed the shoe and found that in the heel, there were holes drilled, and there looked to be a detonator wire, and the substances consistent with [the explosive] C-4," airport official Laura White said.

C-4 is a military plastic explosive, whose main ingredient is also used in fireworks. The whitish, putty-like substance can be easily moulded by hand, and can be detonated if burned.

It was used in the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, which killed 17 US sailors and wounded 39.

Explosives of that type cannot be detected by X-rays or other scanning devices used at airports, but only by sniffer dogs.

The BBC's Malcolm Brabant
"This was a suicide mission"
Director of Aviation at Logan Airport Tom Kinton
"The passenger became violent and fought with two flight attendants"
See also:

24 Oct 01 | Business
Massive loss for American Airlines
13 Sep 01 | Americas
No passport, no ticket - no problem
18 Dec 01 | South Asia
US names al-Qaeda 'most wanted'
12 Nov 01 | Americas
UN renews anti-terror drive
21 Dec 01 | Americas
More groups join US terror blacklist
11 Dec 01 | Europe
Looking for European al-Qaeda
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