By Wajahat S. Khan and Alastair Jamieson, NBC News
A passenger jet heading from Pakistan to England was intercepted by U.K. fighter jets after an "angry passenger" made a bomb threat Friday, an airline official said.
The Boeing 777 was forced to divert from Manchester airport to London Stansted after a disruptive passenger told a flight attendant he would set off a bomb, said a senior Pakistan International Airlines official who asked not to be identified.
"It seems that the threat was passed in anger," the official said. "But we are still trying to figure things out."
The plane, from Lahore, was carrying 308 passengers and landed safely at London Stansted, the official said.
Police said two passengers had been arrested "on suspicion of endangerment of aircraft" - a criminal offense that includes everything from terror threats to misbehavior.
The two passengers who were arrested were identified by Pakistan International Airlines as Safdar Mahmood and Tayyab Subhani, both British nationals. Essex police did not confirm their identities, but confirmed they were British nationals who were ages 30 and 41.
The Royal Air Force Typhoon jets were scrambled after a security alert was sent to air traffic controllers by the passenger jet's pilots, British military officials said.
They said fighter jets had been scrambled, but the explanation for the alert was not immediately known.
"Typhoon aircraft from RAF Coningsby were launched today to investigate an incident involving a civilian aircraft within U.K. airspace; further details will be provided when known," the Ministry of Defence said in a statement.
No suspicious items have been recovered from the plane, Essex police said. The plane will remain at its current location for forensic examination by specialists.
This story was originally published on Fri May 24, 2013 9:14 AM EDT
The coffin of police Constable Nicola Hughes is carried into Manchester Cathedral after processing along the city's Deansgate lined with police officers and members of the public on Oct. 3 in Manchester, England. Police Constables Nicola Hughes, 23, and her police colleague Fiona Bone, 32, were killed as they responded to what they thought was a routine burglary call in Mottram, Greater Manchester and were murdered in a gun and grenade attack. The funeral of Fiona Bone also takes place at the cathedral tomorrow. A local man, Dale Cregan, 29, appeared before Manchester Magistrates last week accused of four murders, including those of PC Nicola Hughes and PC Fiona Bone on Sept. 18.
Martin Rickett / AFP - Getty Images
A picture of PC Nicola Hughes stands beside her coffin at Manchester Cathedral during her funeral service on Oct. 3. Thousands of police officers from across Britain gathered in a silent tribute to a policewoman killed in a gun and grenade attack.
Nigel Roddis / Reuters
A police officer cries as the coffin of Police Constable Nicola Hughes is carried into Manchester Cathedral for her funeral service in Oct. 3.
Thousands of people paid their respects to Police Constable Nicola Hughes at her funeral in Manchester, England, on Wednesday, according to the BBC. Hughes and another constable Fiona Bone were murdered in a gun and grenade attack when responding to what they thought was a burglary on Sept. 18. Bone's funeral will take place on Thursday, according to Getty Images.
Christopher Furlong / Getty Images
A police woman holds flowers as she lines the route for the funeral cortege of police Constable Nicola Hughes at Manchester Cathedral on Oct. 3.
Andrew Winning / Reuters
Crowds line the streets to watch the coffin of Nicola Hughes as it is driven to Manchester Cathedral for her funeral service on Oct. 3
Christopher Furlong / Getty Images
The hat and gloves of police Constable Nicola Hughes lay on top of her coffin as it is carried out of Manchester Cathedral after her funeral service on Oct. 3.
Andrew Yates / AFP - Getty Images
British police personnel attend the funeral of murdered police colleague Nicola Hughes at Manchester Cathedral on Oct. 3.
Dan Kitwood / Getty Images
Children play as police officers line the streets ahead of the funeral of police Constable Nicola Hughes at Manchester Cathedral on Oct. 3.
The debate over whether to give British police officers guns has been reignited following the killing of two unarmed officers, who authorities believe may have been lured to their deaths in an ambush by a suspected double killer.
Police constables Fiona Bone, 32, and Nicola Hughes, 23, were shot dead after responding to a hoax call about a burglary in the northern English city of Manchester. A grenade was also thrown during the attack.
Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Peter Fahy said that it appeared to have been “an act of absolutely cold-blooded murder. It's almost impossible to fathom such an evil act."
The suspect, Dale Cregan, 29, handed himself into a local police station after the shootings on Tuesday.
The Telegraph newspaper reportedCregan had been arrested on suspicion of murdering a man called Mark Short in June, but was then released on bail as police investigated and went into hiding. Cregan is also suspected of killing Short’s father David in August.
Police officers in the U.K. do not routinely carry guns, but armed response units can be called to incidents involving firearms.
'Beggars belief' Darren Rathband, the twin brother of Constable David Rathband who killed himself 18 months after he was shot and blinded by a gunman in July 2010, called for British officers to be given guns, The Guardian newspaper reported.
"It beggars belief. How many officers need to die before the powers realize that it is the 21st century and you cannot fight crime with an outdated piece of plastic [U.K. police's truncheon] and a bit of spray?,” he said. “…I am angry some other families have now lost a daughter, sister, mother or wife and it makes me angry that the thin blue line is getting thinner and thinner."
Paul Beshenivsky, widower of Police Constable Sharon Beshenivsky, who was shot dead in 2005, told ITV News that it was time to give firearms to police.
“I think police, in honesty, should be armed,” he said. “I think something more should be done for the safety of officers.”
He said his wife’s death had been talked about for several years after she was killed but then had been “sort of slightly forgotten.”
Sir Hugh Orde, president of the U.K.’s Association of Chief Police Officers, told ITV News that the murders were a “stark reminder” of the risks police officers faced.
“I don’t think there’s any desire from the [police] service, top to bottom, quite frankly for a routinely armed police service,” he said, noting that armed officers were available to respond when needed.
“Whilst this is an awful week for the service, fortunately these events are very rare still,” he added.
Life in prison 'an equal deterrent' Asked whether the death penalty should be brought back in the U.K. for police killers, Orde said he was not in favor of the idea.
“I think if an officer is shot on duty … anyone convicted should go to prison and never come out,” he said. “I think that’s an equal deterrent and more fitting to our current culture.”
And Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, a Liberal Democrat, warned against a “rush to instant judgments.”
"We have a long tradition in this country, which is a great tradition, of policing in the community, of the police being part of the public and the public supporting and giving their consent to the police,” he said Wednesday, according to The Guardian newspaper.
"I think if we were, in an instant to, in a sense, arm our police to the teeth so they become separate from the public, that would be quite a big change, which would have considerable risks attached to it,” he added.
NBC News' partner ITV News and Reuters contributed to this report.
Questions about airport security are being asked after an eleven year old boy by-passed all security checks to board a flight from Manchester England to Rome. Liam Corcoran was on his own as he walked onto the plane. ITV's Ciaran Jenkins reports.
By Daniel Strieff, NBC News
Updated at 6:22 p.m. ET: LONDON -- An 11-year-old boy flew alone from England to Rome after boarding a commercial flight without a passport, boarding pass or cash, officials said Wednesday.
Several members of staff at Manchester International Airport and with discount air carrier Jet2.com have been suspended and an inquiry has been launched in the wake of the incident during the height of the summer travel season, officials told NBC News.
The boy is now back home with his family and the airport is treating it as "a very serious incident," an airport spokesperson told NBC News by telephone.
Five security checks The boy, who was named in local media reports as Liam Corcoran, managed to pass through five security checks by tagging along with another family before boarding the plane, according to reports.
The plane's captain was notified that his flight had an extra passenger after the aircraft was already in flight, the Manchester Evening News reported. Airplane staff kept the boy onboard after landing at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport and he stayed on the plane until it returned to Manchester later Tuesday.
"This extremely serious matter is now being urgently investigated by officials from the airport and airline. It is clear that documentation has not been checked correctly at security and the boarding gate. The boy went through full security screening so the safety of passengers and the aircraft was never compromised. We made preparations to ensure that his return to the U.K. was handled sensitively to avoid any distress," the airport said in a statement sent to NBC News.
The flight from Manchester to Rome is approximately 1,500 miles.
The boy did not pose a security risk because he passed through all of the proper security procedures, the airport spokesperson and the airline told NBC.
"We have launched a full investigation into what is a serious incident, and the staff involved have been suspended pending the outcome. The boy has been returned safely to his family," a spokesperson from Jet2.com said in a statement given to NBC News.
'He seemed ... quite unfazed' The boy had disappeared just after noon Tuesday during a trip with his mother to a shopping center in Wythenshawe, on the south side of Manchester, before making his way to the airport, a Manchester police spokesperson told NBC News. Local reports said the boy wanted to run away from home.
"He was very talkative and seemed quite unfazed by it all. He was just sat there chatting away about how he'd been trying to run away from home," airplane passenger Sarah Swayne, 26, from Nantwich, England, told the Evening News.
"He seemed quite innocent really and I don't think it had sunk in how serious the situation was," she told the newspaper.
"When the plane touched down, he clearly didn't want to get off but he was taken down the steps before everyone else and met at the bottom by a group of staff who quickly whisked him away," another passenger, who did not provide a name, told the Evening News.
Eight of the nine men convicted Tuesday as part Greater Manchester Police's investigation into child sexual exploitation are seen here. Clockwise from top left: Abdul Aziz, Abdul Qayyum, Adil Khan, Hamid Safi, Abdul Rauf, Mohammed Sajid, Mohammed Amin and Kabeer Hassan.
By F. Brinley Bruton, msnbc.com
LONDON -- Nine men were jailed on Wednesday for grooming and sexually exploiting girls aged as young as 13 in the north of England.
Five victims were "shared" by Kabeer Hassan, Abdul Aziz, Abdul Rauf, Mohammed Sajid, Adil Khan, Abdul Qayyum, Mohammed Amin, Hamid Safi and a 59-year-old man who cannot be named for legal reasons, The Guardian reported.
The front page of Wednesday's Times newspaper, in London.
The men were aged between 24 and 59, all but one were of Pakistani heritage. The other was from Afghanistan. They were found guilty of conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child, the BBC News reported. Other convictions included rape, sexual assault and sexual activity with a child.
They were given sentences ranging from four to 19 years, the BBC reported.
Jurors were told that the men gave the victims alcohol and drugs and then would "pass them around" for sex, according to the BBC. Some of the victims were forced to have sex with "several men in a day, several times a week," the jury heard.
The men, who live in the run-down industrial towns of Rochdale and Oldham, were found guilty on Tuesday. Two others were acquitted after the 11-month trial.
50 members of grooming gang? It emerged after the conviction that police believed the grooming gang had 50 members, the Manchester Evening News reported.
Sentencing the men, Judge Gerald Clifton said they treated the girls "as though they were worthless and beyond respect," the BBC reported.
"One of the factors leading to that was the fact that they were not part of your community or religion," he added. "Some of you, when arrested, said it (the prosecution) was triggered by race. That is nonsense. What triggered this prosecution was your lust and greed."
Police and social workers have been accused of initially not acting on allegations raised in 2008 for fear of appearing racist.
"This is an absolute scandal. They were petrified of being called racist and so reverted to the default of political correctness," former member of parliament Ann Cryer told The Daily Telegraph. "They had a greater fear of being perceived in that light than in dealing with the issues in front of them."
The tabloid Daily Mail newspaper ran the front-page headline: "Why did no one listen to teenage victims of sex gang?"
Cop: 'Not a racial issue' However, a senior police officer involved in the investigation rejected calls for the case to be seen through the prism of race.
"It is not a racial issue. This is about adults preying on vulnerable young children," the Telegraph quoted Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood of Greater Manchester Police as saying. "It just happens that in this particular area and time the demographics were that these were Asian men."
"I am currently running several other inquiries about on-street grooming and it is not Asian men," BBC News quoted Heywood as saying.
Nevertheless, the case was seized on by the head of the far-right British National Party (BNP), raising the specter of an extremist backlash.
The leader of the BNP, Nick Griffin, tweeted before the jury had announced its decision that seven verdicts had been reached. It is not clear how he learned of the jury's decision given that strict reporting restrictions were in place.
The case has already sparked protests by far-right groups. Greater Manchester Police said on Wednesday they were preparing for possible racially motivated violence.