Qatar to discipline plane smoker

2010-04-14 18:10

Doha - Qatar will discipline a diplomat who sparked a security scare by smoking in the toilet of a US passenger jet and joking he was trying to light his shoes, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The diplomat, who is set to leave the United States shortly, would face "necessary and fair measures", the daily al-Watan quoted Qatar's minister of state for foreign affairs, Ahmad Abdullah al-Mahmud, as saying.

Mahmud said the official, Mohammed al-Modadi, would be questioned by the ministry which "will not be lenient with anyone at fault, or cover up for any careless people".

Modadi, the third secretary and vice consul of Qatar's Washington embassy, was released without charge after the incident last week on a United Airlines flight from Washington to Denver.

The 27-year-old had raised suspicion during the flight after smoking a cigarette in an airplane bathroom and then joking that he was trying to ignite his shoe.

His comments raised fears of a repeat of the 2001 "shoe bomber" incident in which British national Richard Reid tried to blow up an airliner using explosives hidden in his footwear.

An air marshal wrestled the diplomat to the floor, the pilot declared an emergency, two F-16 fighters were scrambled and intercepted the airliner, and top White House officials briefed President Barack Obama.

Although smoking in aircraft restrooms is a federal crime under US law, Modadi was not charged because he has diplomatic immunity.