Man arrested after terror threats ground five Shenzhen-bound flights

Terror warnings cause emergency landings on Shenzhen-bound flights, while a helicopter is hijacked in unrelated incident

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 May, 2013, 11:07am

Chinese police say they have detained a man suspected of making fake bomb threats this week against five Shenzhen-bound flights.

Police in Shenzhen said they arrested the man early on Thursday in a rental home in the city of Dongguan. Police gave no word on a possible motive. They identified the suspect only by his surname, Wang, and say he is 26, unemployed and from northern China’s Inner Mongolia.

The crime is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, though a man who made such a threat last year received a four-year sentence.

The flights were operated by Shenzhen Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, and Juneyao Airlines and originated in the cities of Shanghai, Lanzhou and Nanjing. The airlines declined to comment, although Xinhua said three of the flights made emergency landings following the threats that began at 8am and the others were delayed.

Juneyao Airlines asked its flight to return to Shanghai. After all passengers went through a second security check and the crew checked the plane, the airline said they found nothing suspicious. "We have changed to a new plane for this flight," Juneyao said on weibo.

China Eastern Airlines' flight MU2325, from Lanzhou to Shenzhen via Xian, was grounded in Xian after receiving a threat this morning.

In recent years, the mainland has undergone a massive expansion in air travel. Delays, poor airline service, and rude or drunken passengers have led to frequent disruptions and incidents at airports or onboard flights.

In a separate incident, a helicopter - which was going to spray pesticides in Shandong province - was allegedly hijacked after take-off on Tuesday afternoon, according to witnesses and online accounts.

In what the media called the "first case of helicopter hijacking in the history of modern China", a suspect was arrested yesterday, but the pilot remained missing, media reports said.

Hubei Yinyan General Aviation, the helicopter's owner and operator, declined to comment on the incident.

About 20 men had approached the pilot and ground crew when the helicopter was preparing for take-off at a forest park in the Xiajin township of Dezhou city, sources said. They then allegedly attacked the crew. A man boarded the aircraft and forced the pilot to fly it to an unspecified destination, the sources said.

A park was used as a temporary landing area for the helicopter, which was slated to participate in culling the American white moth. The insect, also known as the "forest locust", eats tree leaves and farm crops.

Central Television yesterday quoated a local government spokesman as saying the hijack was caused by a business dispute between two firms. It said at least two people had been arrested.

Additional reporting by Associated Press