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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 July, 2004, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Sydney hoax grounds US flight
Police officers wait at the bottom of the stairs leading to the United Airlines plane at the southern end of the Sydney international airport, Tuesday, July 27, 2004
No device was found on the plane
A US-bound flight from Sydney turned back on Tuesday after a note found on board raised fears of a bomb threat, Australia's government said.

Flight UAL840, carrying 246 passengers and bound for Los Angeles, landed safely back in Sydney airport nearly three hours after take-off.

Police superintendent Peter O'Brien later branded the threat a hoax.

He said all passengers had been interviewed and released, and the plane would resume its journey on Wednesday.

"We have been carrying out our investigations since the plane landed and I'm quite satisfied that it is a hoax," Mr O'Brien told reporters.

Transport Minister John Anderson earlier said that a note had been found that carried "some words that implied that there might have been a bomb on board".

He said the threat was scrawled on either a sick bag or envelope and was found near one of the aircraft's toilets.

Australian Federal Police patrol Sydney's International Airport terminal (Tuesday, July 27, 2004)
Sydney Airport was put on high alert

A Sydney airport spokeswoman earlier denied a local television report that an attempt had been made to break into the cockpit.

The flight took off at about 1500 local time (0500 GMT) and flew for 90 minutes before the pilot decided to turn round, a spokesman for United Airlines said.

It landed at about 17.45 local time (0745 GMT) in a secure part of the airport and was surrounded by security forces.

Passengers would resume their flight to Los Angeles at 1130 local time (0130 GMT) on Wednesday, United said.

The scare follows mounting security concerns in Australia.

Over the weekend, a group calling itself the Islamic Tawhid group and the European branch of al-Qaeda threatened to attack Australia with "columns of rigged cars" unless it withdrew its troops from Iraq.

And there has been alarm at a number of recent security breaches at Australia's airports, including an alert at Brisbane airport in May when a passenger wandered into a sterile zone without passing through security.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Michael Peschardt
"They had been through a frightening ordeal"



SEE ALSO:
Australia 'not cowed' by threats
25 Jul 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Intelligence report concerns Australians
23 Jul 04  |  Asia-Pacific


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