London (CNSNews.com) - Swedish authorities were holding a man on a charge of attempted hijacking Friday after he tried to board a London-bound plane with a handgun in his carry-on baggage.
The man, a Swedish citizen of Tunisian origin, was part of a group of about 20 people traveling to an Islamic conference in Birmingham, England's second-largest city. Their flight was scheduled to take off Thursday afternoon from Stockholm's Vasteras Airport to Stansted Airport northeast of London.
Police say they found the gun in the 29-year-old man's hand luggage before he boarded the flight operated by Ryanair, a Dublin, Ireland-based budget airline.
"We believe he was going to hijack the plane," police spokesman Ulf Palm told reporters. "We don't want too reveal much information, at least for now. More people may be implicated."
Police would not say whether the gun was loaded and were continuing to question the suspect Friday. Under Swedish law, the man can be held for up to four days before a hearing.
The suspect has previous convictions for theft and assault, but it's not known if he was part of a larger terrorist organization. Unnamed security officials quoted by a Swedish news agency said it was believed that the man was acting alone.
Ryanair said a thorough security search was carried out on the Boeing 737 aircraft before it eventually left Stockholm for London shortly before midnight Thursday. It arrived at Stansted without incident.
Reports said the group was traveling to a conference being held by Salafi Publications, but conference organizers denied any knowledge of the suspect.
A Salafi spokesman said his organization condemns acts of violence.
"Islam does not sanction these types of acts, including terrorism, hijackings, and suicide bombings," said Abu Khadeejah.
Khadeejah said by phone from Birmingham that about 2,000 to 3,000 Muslims would be attending the conference, most from Britain but some from Europe and the United States.
The other members of the group traveling from Sweden were held by police but later released.
In addition to the hijacking charge, the suspect also faces a charge of illegal possession of a firearm.
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