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Afghan Planes Diverted After Bomb Scare

January 7, 2003

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) _ Two Afghan airliners carrying Muslim pilgrims were diverted to a military air base in the United Arab Emirates after a bomb scare on one of the planes, the Afghan Embassy and the airline’s station manager said.

In Kabul, the president of Afghanistan’s state airlines, Khalil Ahmad Najimyar, said one plane landed at the base after a hijacking. But Afghanistan’s transport minister, Mohammad Mirwis Sadiq, later said the hijack report was incorrect and no bomb had been found.

The two Boeing 727s, operated by Ariana Airlines, departed from the western Afghan city of Herat en route to the Saudi city of Jiddah when they were ordered to land because a bomb was believed on board, according to Rasheddin Mohammadi, acting Afghan ambassador in the United Arab Emirates.

Both planes landed safely at Al-Minhad military base, about 20 miles from this city in the United Arab Emirates, according to Mohammadi and Haji Daoud, the airline’s station manager in Dubai.

They said the planes and all of the passengers were searched. One plane carried 150 passengers and crew and the other 135, officials said.

Mohammadi said the bomb report came from international peacekeepers in Kabul, the Afghan capital. Sadiq, the Afghan transport minister, said the bomb scare was caused by ``a wrong report″ to the peacekeepers.

``After landing, the plane was surrounded by security services, who searched it and, finding nothing, allowed it to refuel and continue on to Jiddah, its intended destination,″ Sadiq told The Associated Press in Kabul.

Mohammadi said security concerns over Afghan flights were high because Ahmed Zaher Shah, the eldest son of Afghanistan’s former king, and Abdul Haidar, an Afghan Foreign Ministry official, were on another flight that took off Tuesday from Kabul and landed without incident in Dubai.