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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 September 2005, 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK
Gambians 'fake' emergency landing
Gambia are in the quarter-finals of the World Championship

Authorities in Peru claim a plane carrying Gambian soccer fans made an unauthorized detour and faked a fuel emergency, in order for fans to watch an under-17 World Championship tie against Qatar.

The Air Rum plane, carrying 289 fans, bypassed immigration formalities in Lima, Peru's capital, and landed in the northern city of Piura, where Tuesday's match took place, about two hours before kickoff.

"They faked an emergency to land in Piura. They were coming from Brazil and they should have landed in Lima first," Ramon Caminate, a tournament organiser in Piura, told the Reuters news agency.

A spokeswoman for CORPAC, the state body that runs Peru's airports, said the Tri-Star L1011 plane with 12 crew on board claimed it did not have enough fuel to fly to Lima and would have to land in Piura instead.

The fans saw the reigning African champions beat the Qataris 3-1 to stay in the frame for a quarter-final place at the tournament.

Caminate said residents were astonished to see such a large plane, as Piura's little airport is only meant for domestic routes.

All international flights to Peru are meant to terminate in Lima.

A red alert was raised for the emergency in the coastal city, with fire fighters and police racing to the airport, while hospitals were put on standby to prepare for any injuries to the passengers on board.

CORPAC said it would issue a statement later on the incident, as it was clear what penalties the airline could face.

Local prosecutor Carolina Neyra told reporters the stop in Piura was not authorised.

But the airplane has been impounded at Piura's airport for the time being, while the Gambian fans have taken over the five hotels in the small city.

The final of the 16-team tournament is on 2 October in Lima.


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