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Last Updated: Friday, 18 August 2006, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
Plane diverted after bomb scare
Excel plane in Brindisi
Passengers left the plane as officials began to search it
A plane flying from London to Egypt has been diverted to the Italian airport of Brindisi because of a bomb scare.

The 767 plane, operated by charter airline Excel, was flying from Gatwick to Hurghada, Egypt.

Excel said that flight XLA5984 was diverted after a note saying there was a bomb on board was found.

The plane was escorted by an Italian fighter jet and landed safely in Brindisi, to be met by emergency services and anti-terrorist officers.

"The note was written on the back of a sick bag, which stated 'there's a bomb on this aircraft' and was passed among passengers before being handed to a member of cabin crew," said Excel.

"The captain was advised and, as a precautionary measure, made the decision to divert into Brindisi."

Re-boarding

The pilot had landed at the Italian airport after contacting air traffic control in Zagreb, Croatia.

The plane - with 269 passengers and nine crew - is currently being searched, but officials stood down the emergency.

Excel said the passengers are in the terminal building and are expected to re-board the aircraft shortly to continue their journey.
Me and my girlfriend are very anxious - we don't really feel like getting back on it.
Matthew Masters
Passenger

Richard Howson, a London lawyer on the flight, said the pilot announced over the tannoy there may be a bomb on board but that it was probably a hoax.

"He handled it pretty well as he suggested it was most probably not a real scare," said Mr Howson. "I think that helped people stay calm."

He said after leaving the plane, passengers were checked with metal detectors before being allowed into the airport terminal, where they were now being given pizza and bottled water.

Map of Italy

Matthew Masters, another passenger on the plane, said the pilot had made the announcement about two hours into the flight.

Speaking to BBC News 24 from the terminal, Mr Masters said the reaction among passengers was "silence, a bit of uneasiness, just a bit of shock".

The pilot then told passengers that they would be landing within 15 minutes.

Mr Masters said there were fire engines around the plane.

"Me and my girlfriend are very anxious. At least we're off the plane but we don't really feel like getting back on it."

'Crying children'

Fellow passenger Silvestro Auriemma said he translated between plane crew and Italian authorities.

He was sitting near where the note - which said "there is a bomb on board" - was found.

Generally he said it was calm on the plane, but "there were some children crying, and people were shaken up".

"At that altitude, to hear that there's a bomb on board - it's not good," Mr Auriemma told News 24.

Excel Airways is a UK charter passenger airline and provides mainly short-haul services to European and Middle Eastern leisure destinations.

It operates out of London Gatwick, Manchester and Glasgow, and the company is based in Crawley, West Sussex.


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A passenger explains what happened



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