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<bleeding_heart>

U.S. Sends Flight Back to Britain, Suspect Freed

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LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. authorities told a British Airways flight bound for New York to turn back on Wednesday because they said there was a suspected militant on board, although London police later released him without charge.

U.S. officials said a name on the passenger list matched that of a suspected member of a Moroccan militant group.

British police met the man off BA Flight 175, carrying 239 passengers, at London's Heathrow Airport and questioned him there for two hours before releasing him.

"He was never under arrest and is free to go," a police spokesman said. "No further action will be taken."

British Airways said the Boeing 747 left Heathrow for New York's JFK airport just after 0600 EST and received a call from U.S. authorities to turn back at about 0900 EST.

A BA spokeswoman said the man's luggage was removed from the flight when the plane landed back in London.

"The plane was diverted back to London following a request from the U.S. authorities about a passenger they did not want to disembark," she said.

U.S. officials said the United States requested the flight be diverted to Bangor, Maine, but British Airways asked for permission to return to London.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Transport Security Administration, Deirdre O'Sullivan, did not comment on the release of the passenger, but said:

"The role of the Transportation Security Administration is to ensure that the passenger who is a positive match to the 'no-fly list' is not allowed to fly."

A number of British Airways and Air France flights were canceled about 12 months ago because U.S. officials cited intelligence pointing to an al Qaeda plot to target planes.

At the times of the cancellations in January 2004 and December 2003, Washington said intelligence showed al Qaeda was still interested in using aircraft, particularly commercial airliners, to carry out an attack against the United States.

Al Qaeda is held responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States involving four hijacked commercial airplanes in 2001. About 3,000 people were killed.

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Well, as long as it was at British Airways request I don't mind the flight being diverted back to England. It's too bad for the other 238 passengers on board that were inconvenienced though. I am glad the situation was diffused peacefully and the man was only detained long enough to prove his identity.

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Couldn't you have just kept them locked up.

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