LONDON — After searching for a day and a half, London police on Friday arrested a 35-year-old Jordanian suspected of trying to blow up an El Al Israel Airlines jumbo jet by smuggling a bomb aboard in the hand luggage of his pregnant woman friend.
The suspect, Nezar Hindawi, was recognized by the owner of a small West London hotel as he checked in early Friday morning.
The police issued a terse announcement that Hindawi was taken to Scotland Yard headquarters for questioning. Police spokesmen refused to go beyond that announcement.
Hindawi's Irish friend, identified as Anne-Marie Murphy, 32, had passed through all three main security checks at London's Heathrow Airport and was about to board the flight to Tel Aviv on Thursday when the 10-pound bomb was discovered by a member of El Al's security staff. The airline is one of only a few that conducts a search of its own before passengers are allowed on board.
According to the police, the bomb almost certainly would have destroyed the aircraft, killing Murphy and the other 387 people on board, many of whom were traveling to Israel to observe the Passover holiday, which begins Wednesday.
Murphy was arrested and has been questioned extensively, but she has not been charged. She continues to be held in protective custody.
The police reportedly believe that she was not aware of the plot and that Hindawi placed the bomb in her luggage without her knowledge. He is said to have told her that he would take a later flight.
Murphy's mother, Cathleen, was quoted as saying in Dublin that her daughter told her last week that Hindawi was taking her to Israel, where they would be married.
Hindawi is said to have worked for El Arab, an Arabic-language newspaper here, as a copy messenger and reporter. But according to the paper's deputy editor, Mohammed Kabardai, that was four years ago and he was dismissed after a brief period.
"He never had any interest in anything apart from himself," Kabardai said. He said that Hindawi was from a prominent family in Jordan.
The British Broadcasting Corp., quoting government intelligence sources, said Friday evening that the bomb was a highly sophisticated military device of a type produced in the Soviet Union and used by Syrians and Libyans.
Neither police nor government officials would comment on the BBC report.