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Wednesday, May 8, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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SAS flight to Seattle diverted to Greenland

Seattle Times staff reporter

More than 200 passengers on an international flight to Seattle were diverted yesterday to a Greenland town — population 325 — after two bomb threats against the plane were found in SeaTac.

Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) Flight 937 took off on time from Copenhagen, Denmark, yesterday. About 4-½ hours into the flight, the captain got word of the threats and landed the plane in Sondre Stromfjord, in southwestern Greenland, a self-governing territory of Denmark.

"When we get this kind of notification, we don't compromise. We divert immediately," said Anders Bjorck, SAS director of communications in New Jersey. "Security is Number 1 in our company."

The first message directed at the flight was discovered about 8:30 a.m. at a Jack In The Box restaurant on South 188th Street in SeaTac, said FBI Special Agent Ray Lauer. A similar threat was found in a Seattle-Tacoma International Airport restroom, airport spokesman Bob Parker said.

"(The first threat) said something to the effect that the SK-937 flight on May 7, bound for SeaTac airport, has a bomb on board," Bjorck said. "The second was similar, and it ended with some obscenities."

SK is the code used for the airline, he said.

"We don't know how serious this is until we find the person who did it," said Lauer. "Until then, we have to take it very seriously."

Lauer said the King County Sheriff's Office, Port of Seattle police and the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force are coordinating their investigations.

The plane was evacuated and sealed after it landed in Greenland, pending the arrival of Danish special-investigation forces, Bjorck said. The Danish police, along with bomb-sniffing dogs, were expected to check the plane last night.

If they cleared the plane to fly, the crew and 189 passengers were to continue on to Seattle today. If the plane is not approved for travel, another Boeing 767 will be dispatched from Copenhagen to complete the flight, Bjorck said.

Last night, the passengers stayed in a hotel about 35 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

"They're all fine," said Seattle resident Linnea Westerlind, whose mother was one of the passengers. "They're giving them a tour of the village they're staying at."

Nearly everybody living in Sondre Stromfjord, the former home of a U.S. air base, works at the town's airport, according to a tourism Web site.

Gina Kim can be reached at 206- 464-2761 or gkim@seattletimes.com.

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