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Monday, 24 December, 2001, 06:45 GMT
Terror suspect 'is British'
American Airlines flight 63 at Boston's Logan Airport after the mid-air incident
The plane was escorted by fighters before landing
A man being detained by the FBI after attempting to detonate explosives on a flight from Paris to Miami is believed by UK police to be British.

The suspect, who boarded American Airlines flight 63 in Paris alone and without luggage, was overpowered by flight attendants and passengers during the mid-air drama.

We are treating this matter very seriously and we stand ready to help with any investigations

Foreign Office spokeswoman

Officials in Britain were contacted by their US counterparts after they discovered the man - thought to be aged 27 - held a British passport issued in the name of Richard Reid in Belgium three weeks ago.

A spokesperson for Scotland Yard said: "We as a police force believe this man is a British citizen."

Flight diverted

However, it is not certain whether the passport carried by the suspect was valid, false or stolen and other reports have suggested he is of Sri Lankan descent.

A foreign office spokesperson said: "We are treating this matter very seriously and we stand ready to help with any investigations."

It is understood that an airline stewardess spotted the man trying to set fire to his shoe about three hours into the flight.

As cabin staff attempted to restrain the 6ft 4in man he became violent, resisting and biting one woman flight attendant.

Passengers joined in the struggle and he was eventually subdued and sedated by two doctors on board.

The Boeing 767, which was carrying 185 passengers and 12 crew, was then diverted to Boston's Logan airport and escorted in to land by two F-15 fighter jets.

When the man's shoes were X-rayed plastic explosives and a crude detonator capable of causing "catastrophic" consequences were found.

State of alert

The mid-air drama unfolded as anti-terror officers in Britain continued their probe into the contents of the MV Nisha, a ship intercepted in international waters on Friday following a tip off that it was carrying "terrorist material"

So far no illegal substances have been recovered from the vessel, which was carrying 26,000 tons of sugar from Mauritius en route to London, but is currently moored off the Isle of Wight.

Britain is already on a high state of alert following the 11 September atrocities.

Earlier this month Scotland Yard warned of a dual threat from dissident Irish republicans and international terrorists during the launch of a pre-Christmas anti-terrorism campaign in London.

The BBC's Claire Marshall
"He had two makeshift explosive devices"
Director of Aviation at Logan Airport, Tom Kinton
"The passenger became violent and fought with two flight attendants"
See also:

23 Dec 01 | Americas
FBI quiz plane explosives man
24 Oct 01 | Business
Massive loss for American Airlines
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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