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The Nation

Writing Checked in Jet Threat

January 21, 2002|From Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. — Passengers on a flight from Britain to Florida aboard a Virgin Atlantic Airways plane said Sunday they were asked to give handwriting samples after a bomb threat scrawled on a bathroom mirror diverted the jetliner to Iceland.

Police found no explosives on the Boeing 747 and concluded that the threat was a hoax, said Jonas Jonasson, police section leader in Keflavik, 30 miles southwest of Reykjavik, Iceland's capital.

Jonasson said questioning of the passengers and crew had not turned up any information on the source of the threat. He said passengers would be questioned by U.S. authorities in Florida, where they arrived Sunday afternoon.

The plane took off from London on Saturday with 322 passengers and 18 crew members bound for Orlando, but it landed at Keflavik overnight after the crew found the threat and anti-American messages.

Keflavik Police Commissioner Johann Benediktsson has said the threat was written in soap on a mirror in a plane restroom.

"It contained the phrase 'all Americans must die' and other anti-American sentiment," he said.

"The most nerve-racking part was when the captain told us there was a threat against the aircraft and we had to sweat it out 90 minutes as we flew back to Iceland," said Steve Wilkins, a 38-year-old passenger from Sarasota, Fla.

Wilkins said the plane was met in Iceland with armed security, and passengers were taken to a hangar by buses. After they were patted down and their bags were searched, each passenger was asked for a handwriting sample.

The phrase to be analyzed: "Ask Karl the question. Are Amerikans really happy?"

Passengers said the people on board remained calm. But several passengers said they were nervous on the return flight to Florida because the offender probably was still on the plane.

"Everyone was absolutely petrified, but everyone was also very calm," said Allyson Smith, 37, a tour operator from London.

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