Airliner Fakes Emergency Landing so 289 Passengers Can Attend U-17 World Championship Match

LIMA Peru (AP) - A chartered jet carrying 289 Gambian soccer fans pretended it needed to make an emergency landing so they could watch their team compete in the FIFA Under 17 World Championships officials said Wednesday.

The plane claiming to be low on fuel landed Tuesday near the stadium in Peru's northern coast city of Piura.

"It truly was a scam said Betty Maldonado a spokeswoman for Peru's aviation authority CORPAC. "They tricked the control tower saying they were low on fuel."

Emergency crews were scrambled ahead of the unscheduled landing by the Lockhead L1011 Tri-Star owned by Air Rum Ltd. Maldonado said.

The Air Rum plane which she said was chartered by Gambian President Yahya Jammeh should have made its approach to the capital Lima but instead flew directly to Piura entering Peruvian air space "without permission."

The passengers were permitted to attend African team's 3-1 victory over Qatar on Tuesday night she added but the plane remained in Piura on Wednesday while authorities determined what penalty if any to levy against the airline.

Gambian newspaper Daily Observer reported on its Web page Wednesday that the group of fans had been delayed for a week in a hotel in the small West African nation and were forced Friday to watch their country's victory over Brazil on television.