China Diverts Plane After Bomb Threat

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BEIJING - An Afghan plane bound for the restive western Chinese region of Xinjiang was sent back to Afghanistan after a bomb threat, Chinese media said Sunday.

Kam Air deputy chief Feda Mohammad Fedawi told The Associated Press that the plane, carrying 160 passengers, left Kabul and was crossing Kyrgyzstan on its way to the Xinjiang capital, Urumqi, when it was told to turn back.

The Xinhua News Agency said there had been a bomb threat and Urumqi airport authorities had been told not to let the plane land.

Kyrgyz authorities told the crew that Chinese authorities would not allow them into their airspace, Fedawi said. The plane could not return to the Afghan capital because of windy weather and was diverted to the southern city of Kandahar, Fedawi said.

He said there had been no bomb threat.

There was no immediate way to explain the differing accounts.

Urumqi was the scene of China's worst ethnic violence in China in decades when rioting last month killed 197 people and injured more than 1,700, according to official count.

Fedawi said the plane's passengers and crew were fine and it was expected to return to Kabul on Monday morning.

He said the plane had been inspected by Afghan officers and a foreign security company before departure in a security check he described as unusually thorough.

A press officer for NATO forces in Afghanistan, which control the Kandahar airport, said the alliance had received no report of a plane forced to land there.

A Xinjiang regional government duty officer, who refused to give his name, said he had not received any information about the incident, while calls to the region's public security bureau rang unanswered.

Calls to the Urumqi airport's information counter also rang unanswered.

The government has said that Urumqi has slowly been returning to normal since the rioting erupted on July 5 after police stopped a protest by ethnic Uighur residents. The Uighurs went on a rampage, smashing windows, burning cars and beating Han Chinese - the nation's dominant ethnic group. Two days later, the Han took to the streets and attacked Uighurs.
    
Amir Shah in Kabul reported from Kabul.
     
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.     

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