A GMG Airlines aircraft heading for Dhaka from Kuala Lumpur made an emergency landing at a Thai airport after a "mentally disturbed" passenger was seen cutting an apple with a 10-inch-long knife.
After a three-hour drama at Don Muang Airport in Bangkok, flight Z5-042 finally made it to Zia International Airport around 2:30pm.
The aircraft took off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at 7:45 Bangladesh Standard Time (BST). The pilot of the flight asked for an emergency landing permission around 9:45 BST from Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok after a stewardess saw passenger Harun-ar-Rashid having an apple cut with a long knife, said a GMG official.
Redirected to Don Muang Airport (Old Bangkok International Airport), the plane with 60 people onboard landed around 10:00 BST. Two fighter jets from Thai Air Force escorted the plane to Don Muang Airport, UNB reports.
After landing, security personnel surrounded the aircraft and boarded the plane through the front and rear entrances and evacuated all passengers. Panic gripped the passengers on board when the security personnel were making their move, GMG officials said.
Aviation officials and GMG authorities, however, could not explain how Harun managed to board the plane with a knife.
"Harun was seen holding a sharp long knife and was trying to cut an apple," Jamaluddin, who was seated in front of Harun, told The Daily Star at Zia International Airport.
"After observing him [Harun] for sometime, the stewardess went to the cockpit… We heard an announcement soon after: 'Due to fuel shortage the aircraft will have to land at Bangkok airport for 20 minutes'," he said.
"After landing, security personnel both in uniform and plainclothes boarded the aircraft within moments," Saiful Islam, another passenger, said. "They evacuated the passengers, questioned them and searched all luggage and detained Harun-ar-Rashid," he added.
"We do not think this was a hijacking attempt or a terrorist act but panic seized us when we saw security personnel surround the aircraft," several passengers told The Daily Star.
Co-passengers of Harun said he was a quiet person and did not talk to anyone while boarding or during the flight.
"He [Harun] also did not have anything when the stewardess served food and drinks," Jamaluddin observed. "At one stage I saw him trying to cut an apple with a knife," he added.
Sadat Rahman, vice-president of GMG airlines, told The Daily Star, "One of our cabin crews found that passenger Harun ar Rashid was behaving abnormally."
"She informed the pilot of the matter when she saw a knife in his possession," Sadat added.
"The pilot asked for permission for emergency landing concerned about the security of passengers," he also said.
UNB quoting Police Major General Worrasak Nopsittiporn, commander of the Bangkok precinct that includes the airport, said the passenger did not try to harm anyone.
Thai police would not charge him with any crime. Yesterday afternoon, Harun was being escorted to Bangkok international airport where he would be put on a flight to Dhaka, Worrasak said.
Meanwhile, GMG airlines in a press release claimed that the flight had to land in Bangkok due to security reasons. It said "one of the passengers on board was mentally ill" and he was arrested by the Thai authorities. GMG claimed a doctor had confirmed that the passenger was mentally disturbed.