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The bomb threat that Belarus cited to divert the Ryanair plane was sent 24 minutes after the pilots were first told it existed, report says

ryanair belarus roman
The Ryanair that was intercepted and diverted to Minsk, Belarus.
  • Belarus diverted a Ryanair flight on Sunday, and arrested an outspoken dissident who was on board.
  • Belarus claimed it received a bomb threat via email from Hamas and informed the pilots.
  • But the email was sent 24 minutes after Belarus alerted pilots of the supposed threat, per The Daily Beast.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The supposed bomb threat that Belarus used to justify diverting a plane to arrest a journalist was sent 24 minutes after Minsk first alerted the pilots, The Daily Beast reported.

On Sunday, Ryanair Flight 4978 from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania, was forced to land in Minsk. When it landed, Belarusian authorities boarded the plane and arrested the dissident Roman Protasevich, who was on board.

Protasevich is one of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's most vocal critics and is accused of terrorism and inciting anti-government riots.

Belarus said Monday that it had diverted the plane due to a bomb threat from the Hamas militant group.

Roman Protasevich
Belarus police detaining Roman Protasevich in Minsk, Belarus, on March 26, 2017.

The Daily Beast reported Wednesday that the bomb threat, which came as an email, was received by Minsk National Airport's general information account at 12:57 p.m. on Sunday.

But the plane was first alerted to the threat at 12:33 p.m., the outlet said, 24 minutes before.

According to The Daily Beast, the email - which bore the subject line "Allahu Akbar" (Arabic for "God is great") - said:

"We, Hamas soldiers demand that Israel cease fire in the Gaza Strip. We demand that the European Union abandon its support for Israel in this war. We know that the participants of Delphi Economic Forum are returning home on May 23 via flight FR4978. A bomb has been planted onto this aircraft. If you don't meet our demands the bomb will explode on May 23 over Vilnius."

The Daily Beast noted that a further inconsistency exists as a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas had already been agreed two days before the email was sent.

Hamas has denied involvement in the Ryanair interception.

On Monday, Michael O'Leary, Ryanair's CEO, told Ireland's "Newstalk Breakfast" radio show that the incident was "a case of state-sponsored hijacking" in which "the intent of the authorities was to remove a journalist."

The hijacking has been widely denounced by top officials in the US, UK, and the EU. Only Russia is standing by Belarus, leading some experts to suggest that Moscow - on which Belarus heavily relies on for support - was either involved or supportive of the hijacking.

Russia denies involvement.

Protasevich is still in custody and, on Monday, the Belarusian government released a video in which he confessed to planning protests in Minsk.

However, his father, Dzmitry Protasevich, told Sky News the confession looked forced and that his nose appeared to be broken.

Read the original article on Business Insider




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