A Japan Airlines flight to the US with over 250 passengers and crew on board was aborted due to a bomb threat which reportedly demanded the release of a notorious criminal, the airline said Thursday.
The carrier said it received an email that warned a bomb was planted inside the plane less than two hours after the Boeing 777 left for New York on Wednesday.
Jiji Press news agency reported Thursday that the email demanded the release of Shoko Asahara, the mastermind behind the 1995 Tokyo subway gas attacks, which killed 13 and injured thousands.
The plane, which took off around noon local time (0300 GMT) Wednesday, was ordered back to Narita International Airport as it was flying over the Aleutian island chain in the north Pacific, a company official said.
"The plane had departed after security checks but we decided to call it back after consultations with the police," he added.
A thorough search of the plane turned up no explosive device, the official added without elaborating.
All 247 passengers and 18 crew returned to the Tokyo-area airport safely and departed for the US on another plane, the official said.
Quoting investigators, Jiji Press said the email demanded the release of Asahara , 57, who was sentenced to death along with 12 other members of the Aum Supreme Truth cult after they released deadly nerve gas into the Japanese capital's subway system.
In recent months, Japanese authorities arrested the last two remaining suspects from the cult who had been on the run since the deadly attacks.