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Saturday, 31 August, 2002, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
Hijack suspect took flying lessons
Karem Chattym (Expressen Newspaper)
The plane was bound for Stansted
Swedish police are still questioning a man on suspicion of planning to hijack a plane, amid speculation that he intended to crash the aircraft into a US embassy.

Kerim Chatty had received flying lessons in 1996 and 1997 in South Carolina, according to the North American Institute of Aviation.

However, Swedish military and police appeared to be at odds over the suspected hijacker's motive.

A military intelligence source told Reuters news agency: "We know for sure that the plan was to crash the plane into a US embassy in Europe."

But Margareta Linderoth, director of the national security police, said: "It's false information. I deny it absolutely."

She also rejected reports that the police were looking for four other men, including an explosives expert, who might have been working with the 29-year-old suspect

Karem Chatty (Expressen Newspaper)
Karem Chatty: Gun found in toiletries bag
Nevertheless, Western intelligence is taking seriously the possibility that Mr Chatty could be part of a wider plot.

British intelligence has told the BBC that investigators are trying to establish whether he had accomplices onboard the Ryanair jet.

Mr Chatty was arrested at Vesteras airport 100km (60 miles) north-west of Stockholm on Thursday, after a gun was found in his hand luggage as he tried to board a flight for Stansted in the UK.

Swedish police are trying to establish whether he has any connection with extreme Muslim groups such as al-Qaeda.

Mr Chatty denied knowledge of the gun and said he was on his way to an Islamic conference in Birmingham in central England.

He converted to Islam in 1998, a year after his flying lessons were terminated because of poor performance.

Previous convictions

British police - said to include anti-terrorism experts from Scotland Yard - are working closely with their Swedish counterparts on the case.

Police spokesman Ulf Palm said the suspect had previous convictions for theft and assault.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the arrest showed "the threat of international terrorism remains".

Mr Chatty, born in Sweden to Tunisian parents, was one of a group of about 18 adults and two children apparently bound for the Birmingham meeting.

Prosecutors in Sweden have until early next week to decide whether to bring formal charges against the man, although they can apply to hold him for longer.

Hijacking carries a sentence of between six months and life imprisonment in Sweden.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Stephen Sackur reports
"In Sweden Karem Chatty is front page news"
Nils Uggla, lawyer for Karem Chatty
"He has an explanation"
Benjamin Creel, North American Inst. of Aviation
"He began our professional pilots course"
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