An Islamic human rights group yesterday said "ever-increasing Islamophobia" was to blame for the removal of two men from a flight because of fears they were terrorists.

The men, in their 20s and thought to be of Middle Eastern appearance, were forced off a UK-bound flight after fellow passengers became alarmed at their behaviour, Monarch Airlines said.

Holidaymakers on board flight ZB 613 from Malaga to Manchester demanded that air staff remove them from the plane following an incident early on Wednesday.

Cabin crew informed Spanish authorities of the passengers' fears and the men were taken off the flight and quizzed by police.

The two men flew back into Manchester later in the week and were not arrested by British police.

The plane was carrying 150 passengers and seven crew. A spokesman for Monarch Airlines said: "There were two passengers on the flight who came to the attention of the other people because they were apparently acting suspiciously.

"The flight attendants were sufficiently concerned to alert the crew who in turn informed the security authorities at Malaga airport.

"The passengers were off-loaded from the flight."

The spokesman refused to give details of what the men had done to arouse their fellow passengers' suspicions.

Islamic Human Rights Commission chairman Massoud Shadjareh said the incident was "exactly the type of thing we've been so concerned about".

He said: "There is everincreasing Islamophobia being implemented in the War on Terror. It is counterproductive, not just because it's going to alienate people who are perceived to be Muslim, but also because terrorists have shown that they will make themselves look completely different to how people perceive them to look."

Conservative homeland security spokesman, Patrick Mercer, described the incident as "a victory for terrorists".