Offloaded Saudis plan to sue

Two Saudi brothers have told a Riyadh newspaper they were the passengers forced off a Dutch plane bound for Mexico after it was blocked by US authorities on security grounds.

    The KLM flight was forced to turn around by US authorities

    Marwan and Waddah Rajihkhan, 39 and 28 respectively, who took flying lessons at the same Arizona school attended by a 11 September hijacker, told Al-Watan that they were flying to Mexico City to see their father who was scheduled for surgery.

     

    The KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flight with 278 passengers on board was forced by US authorities on 8 April to turn around near Canadian airspace and fly back to the

    Netherlands.

     

    The airline was told that two passengers were a security risk.

     

    The flight returned to Amsterdam, where the Rajihkhan brothers were forced to disembark. The airliner then flew to Mexico City without the pair.

     

    Final destination

     

    The Rajehkhan brothers, who never reached their final destination, said they are considering a lawsuit.

     

    It was not immediately whether they planned to sue the US government or the Dutch airline.

     

    The plane returned to Amsterdam

    "We were surprised after eight hours of flying with the announcement that the plane had to return to Amsterdam," Marwan, who studied Computer Science at Arizona State University, told the paper.

     

    "It never occurred to us that Waddah and I were the reason behind this emergency

    rerouting."

     

    Waddah told the paper that the plane landed first in London, where the two were "gently" investigated by British authorities and let go.

     

    After landing in Amsterdam the brothers were detained for a day and questioned by

    Dutch authorities "also very gently".

     

    "After the procedures were completed and nothing was proven against us, we returned to Jidda," Waddah said.

     

    Flying lessons

     

    Both brothers took flying lessons at the Arizona flight school where purported 11 September hijacker Hani Hanjur received training.

     

    Marwan told Al-Watan the FBI held him for nine days after the 2001 attacks.

    He was released after his case was cleared. Waddah had left the United States before the attacks.

     

    "This case has affected me, my life and my mental state a lot. Rumours are flying everywhere in a way that makes one uncomfortable"

    Waddah Rajihkhan,
    offloaded Saudi

    Marwan said US authorities asked him to leave the United States.

     

    The two brothers, who say they never knew the hijacker Hanjur, are not on a list of suspects wanted by US authorities.

     

    "This case has affected me, my life and my mental state a lot. Rumours are flying everywhere in a way that makes one uncomfortable," Waddah said.

     

    "Does it make sense that after such a long and tiring flight that a plane carrying (278) passengers is returned because of two innocent people?" Marwan asked.

     

    Dutch lawmakers seeking an explanation for the forced U-turn sent a list of questions to the country's justice minister.

     

    KLM said it was also seeking information from US and Dutch authorities. The carrier said it might file a claim against the US government for damages of less than $1

    million.

    SOURCE: Unspecified


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