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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 October, 2004, 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK
Israel blocks 'bomb threat' plane
Cyrpiot bomb experts search the Lufthansa jet
Bomb squads with sniffer dogs searched the jet for explosives
Israeli jet fighters have prevented an incoming Lufthansa airliner from landing after a bomb alert that German officials had not considered serious.

Flight LH686 from Frankfurt landed in Larnaca, Cyprus and has been searched by security staff.

"We wanted to fly to Tel Aviv but the Israeli authorities forced us to land in Larnaca," said a Lufthansa official.

Six passenger jets - including three Greek planes - have now been diverted after bomb hoaxes in the last 10 days.

We accept the decision of the Israeli government, but we are sure this bomb warning wasn't serious
Lufthansa spokesman
Lufthansa said that a bomb alert had been received shortly after the flight left Frankfurt at 0810 GMT (1010 local time).

"After checking with the German authorities we came to the conclusion this bomb threat was not so serious," said Lufthansa spokesman Thomas Jachnow.

"We accept the decision of the Israeli government, but we are sure this bomb warning wasn't serious," he added.

'Arabic accent'

There were 331 passengers and 16 crew on board the Boeing 747-400 jet.

Cypriot civil aviation officials said the plane had landed at 1208 GMT (1508 local time).

Cypriot justice minister Doros Theodorou granted permission for the plane to land in Larnaca and mobilised bomb squads, bomb detectors and local civil aviation officials.

Everyone on board was evacuated from the aircraft as security experts began a search of the plane, which was parked two kilometres from the terminal building as a security precaution.

Sniffer dogs were used to search for explosives hidden inside the cockpit and cabin areas.

A Lufthansa spokeswoman in Athens said the flight would be delayed by four hours, AFP reported.

An Israeli spokesman for Lufthansa, Yitzhak Zaroni, told Israel television station Channel 10 that the caller had spoken with an Arabic accent.

"While the plane was in the air, there was a telephone call in Germany that said there was an explosive device on the plane," Mr Zaroni said.

German security officials concluded that the threat was a false alarm and authorised the plane to continue its journey to Tel Aviv, the Israeli newpsaper Ma'ariv reported on its website.

But Israeli transport minister Meir Shitrit instructed the plane to land in Cyprus as a precaution, the newspaper added.

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