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El Al jet diverted in Canada after security threat
( 2003-10-24 09:09) (Agencies)

An Israeli airliner was diverted twice in Canada on Thursday after an unspecified threat to the plane and to Canada's biggest airport, authorities said.

The El Al jet was bound for Toronto from Tel Aviv and was forced to land first in Montreal, and then again in Hamilton, Ontario, to allow some passengers off.

"Sometime in flight, a threat was received," said Ken Mitchell, a spokesman for Hamilton International Airport. "The threat included the Toronto airport and the aircraft."

He added: "We don't know the nature of the threat, we don't know how it was transmitted or who received it. But the threat was taken seriously and the plane was originally diverted to Montreal."

The jet then landed in Hamilton, an industrial town about 60 km (40 miles) outside Toronto, on Thursday morning before continuing to Los Angeles at 1:45 p.m. EDT (1745 GMT).

Mitchell said passengers scheduled to fly to Los Angeles from Toronto were brought to Hamilton by bus from Toronto's Pearson International Airport -- the country's busiest -- because the threat made a reference to the airport.

In Ottawa, Canadian Transport Minister David Collenette said there were 193 people on board the plane.

"We had information there was a specific threat against this El Al flight and therefore we ordered the pilot to immediately land at Mirabel (airport in Montreal)," he told reporters. "The threat was at Pearson airport and that is why the flight was asked to land at Mirabel.."

Collenette said the plane flew to Los Angeles without incident and the incident did not affect any flights at Toronto's Pearson airport.

Collenette added the incident is being investigated by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

An El Al statement from Israel confirmed the Toronto airport control tower had ordered the plane, which was carrying 180 passengers, be rerouted to Montreal due to a "security request." It gave no other details. Officials at Pearson airport were not immediately available for comment.

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