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Man charged over alleged Malaysia Airlines bomb threat

written by Jake Nelson | August 15, 2023

Rob Finlayson shot this Malaysia Airlines Airbus A330-300 at Sydney.

Australian Federal Police have charged a 45-year-old Canberra man over alleged threats that forced a Malaysia Airlines A330-300 (similar aircraft pictured) to return to Sydney on Monday.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH122 was en route to Kuala Lumpur when a passenger, identified as Muhammad Arif, allegedly became belligerent and claimed to have explosives, causing the plane to return to Sydney at around 3:45pm. Police arrested him without incident, and all passengers and crew disembarked safely.

A spokesperson for the airport told Australian Aviation that 16 inbound and 16 outbound flights were cancelled due to the incident, but operations returned to normal on Tuesday.

Passengers reported being forced to wait on the tarmac for several hours before NSW and federal police boarded the plane to detain the man.

NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb told 2GB that authorities had acted with reasonable caution to defuse a “volatile” and “unpredictable” situation.

“We didn’t know the severity of the incident and you have to deal with what we learn about the passenger. We didn’t know if there was a bomb,” she said.

“I praise the crew for what they did in keeping the passengers calm … to de-escalate the situation to the point that we got this matter resolved in three hours, I think three hours is pretty good.

“The protocol in Australia is to negotiate, we don’t storm planes, this is not TV, it’s not the movies, we want to protect the lives of all passengers.”

Affected passengers subsequently received support with food, accommodation, and transport from Sydney Airport staff, while Malaysia Airlines staff helped them rebook flights as necessary. The flight was rescheduled to depart for Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday afternoon.

Arif has been charged with false statements about threats to damage a Division 3 aircraft, contrary to section 24(2)(b) of the Crimes (Aviation) Act 1991, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment, and failure to comply with cabin crew’s safety instruction contrary to section 91.580(3) of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998, which carries a maximum penalty of a fine over $15,000.

He was slated to appear before Downing Centre Local Court on Tuesday, but reportedly refused to leave his cell.

“Now the matter is before court, no further comment or updates will be made at this stage,” the AFP said in a statement.

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Comment (1)

  • Why would you want to “negotiate” with a suspect claiming to have an explosive device on/with him when both the suspect and every other person on board have been cleared through security prior to boarding. Some will argue not but AFP armed with Tasers would have secured the area much sooner and saved thousands of passengers/crew/workers/time money and worry. If there was no security procedure in place then yes, negotiate and after that in any event invoice the offender for total costs of the debacle.

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