msnbc.com news services
updated 8/18/2006 11:45:32 AM ET 2006-08-18T15:45:32

A bomb threat scrawled on a sick bag caused a British passenger plane from London to Egypt to be diverted to southern Italy on Friday, but police said it appeared to be a hoax.

"The alarm has been called off," said Brindisi border police chief Salvatore de Paolis.

The charter flight from London's Gatwick airport to Hurghada in Egypt with 269 passengers on board was escorted to Brindisi by an Italian jet fighter after the pilot raised the alarm by radio to air traffic controllers in Zagreb.

The passengers were evacuated immediately after landing in Italy and anti-terrorist police inspected the aircraft with the airport fire brigade on standby.

But budget airline Excel said it was only a precaution taken after a passenger found a threatening note written on a sick bag in a seat pocket.

"It is all over," said a spokeswoman for Excel. "The checks have gone on and once it is all cleared the passengers are going back onto the aircraft and it will resume its journey — sooner rather than later, we hope."

The plane, a Boeing 767 with Excel Airways, left from London's Gatwick airport and was bound for Hurghada, Egypt, the ENAV agency said. De Paolis said it was carrying 280 passengers.

Italy's Air Force said it sent an F-16 to intercept the plane before it landed.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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