A US airline flight to India returned to Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport yesterday escorted by two Dutch F-16 jet fighters after the crew reported some passengers were behaving suspiciously, authorities said.
Several passengers on Northwest Airlines Flight NW0042 to Mumbai were taken off the plane for questioning, and other passengers were questioned at the gate, airport spokeswoman Pamela Kuypers said.
The Dutch Defence Ministry and airport authorities said the pilot had radioed for permission to return and asked for an escort of jet fighters when the crew's suspicions were aroused by several passengers.
A US passenger said she had seen police handcuff and remove about 11 men of south Asian appearance from the plane before other passengers.
She said she did not see what happened but heard from other passengers that the men had aroused suspicion by getting out their mobile phones. Twelve passengers were detained.
The plane, belonging to US-owned Northwest Airlines, was carrying 149 passengers when it turned around, having already crossed the German border.
Dutch police spokesman Rob Staenacker said he could not disclose the nationalities of the 12 people removed from the aircraft after it was diverted over German airspace.
Later, a US government official speaking on condition of anonymity said that crew members and air marshals had observed the passengers attempting to use cell phones and passing cell phones among themselves while the airliner was taking off.
"It was behaviour that average passengers wouldn't do," the official said.