Three held for ‘terrorist matters’ as London-bound plane makes emergency landing in Cologne

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BERLIN: Three male passengers were detained on Saturday evening in Cologne, Germany after their easyJet flight from Ljubljana, Slovenia to London made an unscheduled landing there, Cologne police said in a statement.

The aircraft landed 6 PM local time (9 PM PST) at Cologne-Bonn Airport after passengers reported that the men were talking about “terrorist matters,” according to the statement.

The men, however, were not identified by then.

Police carried out security checks on the aircraft and questioned passengers after all 151 passengers were evacuated safely from the Airbus 319 aircraft using emergency slides and led through transit gates, the airport said in a statement on its website.

“Passengers [also] had to undergo a check immediately after landing,” the statement added.

Cologne Bonn Airport said on Twitter that “there are currently delays of departures” due to an operation being carried out by the police.

Federal police seized a backpack that belonged to one of the men, and bomb squad officers exploded it outside of the aircraft, police said. They gave no information on the contents of the backpack and said officials continued to investigate the backpack.

The men continued to be questioned late Saturday evening. Other passengers were also being questioned, police said.

10 aircraft were diverted to other airports as a result of the police investigation, the airport said, as air traffic was interrupted between 7-10 PM, with 20 departures delayed.

Bild newspaper quoted a spokesman for the German federal police as saying the pilot decided to land the aircraft in Cologne after passengers told airline personnel they had heard the men using words including “bomb” and “explosive”.

No comment was immediately available from federal police.

According to WDR, a German media outlet, flight operations resumed after two hours.

The airport, in a new statement, said operations had been “partially resumed”, as take-offs were given the green signal, but landings were on hold.

Germany remains on high alert following several jihadist attacks there and in other European countries. Authorities Friday evacuated Germany´s biggest rock festival, the three-day “Rock am Ring,” over fears of a possible terrorist threat, which proved unfounded.