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PLANE TERROR; US issues new al-Qaeda alert Airlines ground five aircraft.

Byline: ANDY GARDNER Crime Correspondent

FIVE flights to the US - three British and two French - have been cancelled amid fears of a new terrorist attack.

British Airways jets due to fly from Heathrow to Washington and Miami today and tomorrow were grounded after US intelligence experts warned al-Qaeda could be targeting the airline again.

Yesterday's flight was not axed and took off as normal.

A similar threat a month ago led to two BA flights - also BA 223 to Washington - and six Air France flights being cancelled.

Yesterday BA had insisted all their flights would take off, despite US officials warning that terrorists could target jets from London to US cities.

But after the British Govern-ment intervened the airline grounded today's and tomorrow's BA223 London-Washington flights plus tomorrow's BA207 Heathrow-Miami plane. The flight number BA223 is believed to have been named in terrorist "chatter" picked up by eavesdropping intelligence services. British agents have been told al-Qaeda is desperate to commit another outrage to match the 9/11 Twin Towers and Pentagon horrors.

Later, Air France confirmed it had also cancelled two Paris-Washington flights as US intelligence chiefs said they believe al-Qaeda might be targeting five or six US-bound aircraft. A US official said: "We have received threats reporting that indicates al Qaeda's desire to target these flights."

A BA spokeswoman said: "The safety and security of our operations is our priority and will not be compromised."

A Department of Transport spokesman said: "In the light of information, and in discussion with the airline, the decision was made to cancel the flights. The first priority is always the safety of the travelling public."

US Homeland Security Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said: "US intelligence has specific credible threat information on international flights."

Security checks on US-bound flights have been tightened with the UKalso agreeing to put armed "sky marshals" on selected flights.

A VIRGIN Airbus A340-300 with 181 passengers and 14 crew landed safely back at Heathrow two-and-a-half hours into a transatlantic flight yesterday after a burning smell was noticed in the cabin.


THEN: BA Flight 223 grounded last month; NOW: Flight 223 on take-off yesterday
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Feb 1, 2004
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