Qatari diplomat arrested for mid-air 'bomb threat'
A Qatari diplomat caught smoking in the toilets of a plane over the US made a joke about being a “shoe bomber” and sparked a security scare on Wednesday night.
The official, identified by the Associated Press (AP) as Mohammed Yaaqob Y M Al Madadi, was caught smoking in the toilets of a plane from Washington to Denver, and when questioned allegedly made a joke that he had been trying to “light” his shoes.
Al Madadi was immediately restrained by air marshals aboard the plane. Meanwhile, two fighter jets were scrambled and intercepted the United Airlines Boeing 757, which was carrying 157 passengers and six crew members.
When the plane landed in Denver airport law enforcement officials meet the plane and Al-Madadi, a third secretary at the Qatari Embassy in Washington, was detained for questioning.
No explosives were found on the diplomat, and law enforcement officials told the AP that it was apparent that Al Madadi did not mean to cause any harm.
Diplomats in the US are privileged to diplomatic immunity from prosecution and if US authorities wish to pursue charges against Al Madadi they will need to obtain permission from Qatar.
A senior US State Department official told AP that it was likely Al Madadi would be expelled from the US.
The incident comes just months after a Nigerian man tried unsuccessfully to ignite his explosive-filled pants on a flight over Detroit on Christmas Day.
In 2001 Richard Reid, aka the ‘Shoe Bomber’, attempted to set off a charge on a flight between Paris and Miami, but was restrained by passengers.