Bomb threats disrupt Changsha flights

False calls to airport feed security fears in wake of suspected terror attack in Tiananmen Square

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 October, 2013, 6:29pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 November, 2013, 11:42am

Police have detained a man suspected of making false bomb threats that affected four flights from or bound for Changsha in central Hunan province yesterday afternoon.

China Central Television reported that Changsha Huanghua International Airport received warnings from a single suspect of possible bombs aboard the four flights. The identity and motive of the suspect remained unknown. The airport could not be reached for comment.

The incident came just days after a car crash and explosion in Tiananmen Square which authorities described as a "terrorist attack". Public security officials are also on a state of heightened alert ahead of the Communist Party plenum planned to start next week.

A Beijing Capital Airlines flight from Changsha to Hangzhou , a Southern Airlines flight from Harbin to Changsha and a Xiamen Airlines flight from Lanzhou to Changsha were forced to alter their flight plans after the airport received threatening phone calls, according to CCTV and airlines.

"There has been a series of threats recently [targeting civilian airlines]," a Xiamen Airlines representative said.

A Sichuan Airlines flight from Fuzhou left for Changsha after an inspection found no dangerous items on the aircraft or in the passengers' belongings, an airline representative said.

The recent security threats have prompted some nervousness on the country's social networks.

"It's better to stay at home as there have been many terrible events recently," one user of the Sina Weibo microblogging service wrote. "This is scary. The country is not safe any more."

Flights at the Changsha airport were delayed on Sunday after a false bomb threat. Local media reported that the threats were made by a 26-year-old man who was trying to get back at his father for refusing to send him money. He has been detained.

Chinese airlines have received an increasing number of false threats in recent months, the country's top court spokesman, Sun Jungong , said in September.

After at least 22 civilian flights were affected from May 15-18, the Supreme People's Court announced harsher punishments for those found guilty of spreading false terrorist threats.