TOKYO – Air China received a threat Friday to bomb its aircraft and crash planes into the site of the Beijing Olympics, just hours before the opening ceremony, Tokyo airport police said.
The threat forced one of its planes bound for China to turn around and return to Japan, although inspections of the aircraft and four other Air China jets found no suspicious objects, Japanese authorities said.
A Narita airport police officer said the threat was: “We are telling Air China: Immediately suspend operations of all flights. Otherwise we will bomb the planes. We will crash the airplanes into the site of the Olympics.”
An Air China Boeing 737 plane bound for Chongqing with 71 people including 10 crew members on board was forced to return to Japan’s Nagoya airport.
“Flight 406 had to return after the bomb threat. No one was injured,” said a spokeswoman for Central Japan International Airport, Akiko Noguchi.
The plane was checked for safety and later took off again for Chongqing via Shanghai. Two other Air China planes at southern Fukuoka airport were also inspected and later departed after no suspicious objects were found.
Two more of the carrier’s planes were searched at Narita and later took off. One, originally bound for Beijing, was redirected to Tianjin, while another left for Shanghai as intended.
“We found no irregularities or suspicious objects in the planes,” the same police officer said after the searches. “Both planes have taken off already.”
An official at Japan’s transport ministry also said the bomb threat appeared to be linked to the Olympics.
“Air China received an email saying a bomb will be exploded unless all Air China flights are suspended,” said the official, Toshiro Tachimoto, adding that the email contained a reference to the Olympic Games.
An Air China executive in Beijing also confirmed the bomb threat but said no suspicious objects had been found.
“In order to ensure the safety of passengers and the aircraft, we have carried out special measures such as second-time security checks,” the executive said.
The threat came as China enforced sweeping security measures across Beijing to protect the Olympic opening ceremony, deploying thousands of armed police and locking down areas of the city centre.
Beijing airport was set to shut down just ahead of the 8:00 pm (1200 GMT) start of the ceremony at the Bird’s Nest stadium to be attended by world leaders such as Chinese President Hu Jintao and US counterpart George W. Bush.
Channel News Asia