Seven passengers - six Syrians and a Cuban detained in Panama after a flight crew reported suspicious behavior told authorities that three of them had approached the cockpit by mistake, police said Tuesday.
The men, who were traveling together on a Copa Airlines flight from Cuba, were also suspected of taking a knife that went missing after breakfast was served in the first-class cabin where they were sitting, Panama's National Police said in a news release.
Police said three of the men approached the cockpit door and tried to open it. They told investigators they confused it with the bathroom, the statement said. Panama's Judicial Police also said the men tried to get into the cockpit.
Earlier, Panamanian Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Victor de la Hoz had denied that the passengers tried to gain access to the cockpit, and said the Copa Airlines crew simply notified authorities on the ground that a knife was missing.
"This is not a hijacking," he said.
It was not immediately possible to reconcile the different stories.
The seven men were still being held at Panama's international airport Tuesday night.
Panama's National Police director, Rolando Mirones, said the suspects "did not commit any violent acts inside the airplane, but they raised suspicions," adding: "That is why we are investigating."
The plane landed safely shortly before noon.
Judicial Police Director Jose Ayu Prado said the Syrians, ages 17 to 30, were headed for Haiti and Jamaica after a layover in Panama.
The Cuban passenger was en route to Argentina, the aviation authority said in a statement.
Like many commercial airlines, Copa ordered cockpit doors locked on its jetliners after the Sept. 11, 2001, airplane attacks in the United States.
Putin's official spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented on remarks in the US media about failures in launching nuclear-capable missiles in Russia
More than 5.8 million people voted for Nicholas Maduro at the presidential election in Venezuela. This is more than a quarter of registered voters. Why did those people vote for the man, who, as Western media write, took Venezuela to the brink of collapse?
It has long been understood that the West has been trying to subject Russian borders to total control. We have not seen such activity even during the Cold War