U.S. security officials say a Qatari diplomat who made a joke that caused a bomb scare on a flight from Washington to Denver has been released from U.S. custody.
In a statement, Qatar's ambassador to the United States, Ali Bin Fahad Al-Hajri, said the diplomat was traveling on official business and was not engaged in any threatening activity. The ambassador says the facts will reveal that the situation was a "mistake."
Officials say the man had been smoking in the bathroom and, when questioned, he said he smelled like smoke because he was trying to light his shoe, a reference to the so-called shoebomber who tried to detonate explosives on a transatlantic flight in 2001.
Federal air marshals on the plane restrained him and he was questioned after the United Airlines flight landed at Denver International Airport late Wednesday. No explosives were found.
The U.S. military sent two F-16 fighter jets from a Colorado air base to intercept the plane, and they escorted the aircraft until it safely landed. U.S. President Barack Obama, who was traveling to Prague at the time of the incident, was briefed on the situation.
An official said that "appropriate actions were taken to ensure the safety of the traveling public."
Smoking is prohibited on all U.S. passenger flights.
U.S. airports have been on heightened alert since a Nigerian man allegedly tried to set off a bomb in his underwear on a U.S.-bound plane in December. In 2001, al-Qaida-linked terrorist Richard Reid attempted to blow up an airliner from France to the United States using explosives hidden in his shoes.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.