NBC News and news services
updated 9/7/2011 1:23:09 PM ET 2011-09-07T17:23:09

Two flights operated by Pakistan International Airlines were forced to make emergency landings Wednesday after receiving bomb threats, officials said.

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The first flight was headed for Manchester, England, when it was notified of the threat near the Bulgarian capital of Sofia. The crew contacted the control tower in Istanbul to seek permission for the landing, state-run Anatolia news agency reported.

Authorities quickly evacuated all 378 passengers from the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft after it parked at a remote corner of the International Ataturk Airport, and bomb squads began searching the plane with sniffer dogs, Anatolia reported. All passengers were safe.

Pakistan International Airlines in London told NBC News: "The threat is unfounded and the flight will resume to Manchester."

Later, a second PIA flight from Islamabad to Kuala Lumpur also received a bomb threat. It landed in Kuala Lumpur and all 176 passengers disembarked safely, said PIA spokesman Mashood Tajwar.

Tajwar gave no details on the nature of the threat or how it was delivered, but a local television station said it was by email.

Pakistan is home to al-Qaida's top leadership. Militants who trained there have been responsible for many of the attacks and failed plots in the United States and Europe since Sept. 11, 2001, when planes hijacked by al-Qaida militants destroyed the World Trade Center in New York and crashed into the Pentagon.

The bomb threats came four days before the 10th anniversary of 9/11, but there was no apparent link to Islamist militants, who typically do not alert authorities in advance.

The FBI and Homeland Security department issued warnings last weekend about al-Qaida threats to small airlines

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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