Tennessee man held in Northwest Airlines bomb threat

SEATTLE (AP) - A 31-year-old Tennessee man was identified Thursday as the person arrested after authorities said he told them a bomb was aboard a Northwest Airlines jetliner, prompting the plane's return to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Kou Wei Chiu, of the Bellevue area of Nashville, was set to make an initial appearance in federal court in Seattle Thursday afternoon.

Chiu was arrested Wednesday for investigation of threats to bomb, after he reportedly told a gate agent there was a bomb on Northwest Airlines Flight 980 shortly after the plane left Seattle for Memphis around 12:33 p.m.

Police confirmed there was no bomb on board hours later, after bomb-sniffing dogs searched the plane, airport spokeswoman Terri-Ann Betancourt said.

Chiu had apparently missed the flight. He initially said he had no luggage on the aircraft, then later told authorities he had checked luggage under someone else's name, Betancourt said.       The plane, an Airbus A320 with 142 passengers and 5 crew members on board, returned to the airport around 1:15 or 1:20 p.m., Betancourt said.

Passengers remained on the plane for more than an hour while police tried to determine how extensive a security sweep was needed. Around 3 p.m., passengers were taken off the plane and all luggage was removed so bomb-sniffing dogs could search for any traces of explosives, Betancourt said.

Passengers were given the option of rebooking if they did not feel comfortable getting back on the plane, Northwest spokesman Roman Blahoski said. The plane finally departed for Memphis - for the second time - at 5:14 p.m., Blahoski said. It reached its destination late Wednesday night.

It's a federal offense to make a threat against a commercial aircraft, and Chiu was transfered to federal custody on Thursday after initially being arrested for investigation of state charges.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)