'Blow Up The Plane' Snapchat Joke Resulted In Fighter Jets Intercepting A Commercial Airliner

25/01/2024

People fly to get to their destination, quickly and easily. With commercial airlines from various companies reaching even the furthest ends of the world, the method of transportation is pretty convenient.

Airlines worldwide collectively flew around 100,000 flights per day, carrying approximately 10 million passengers daily. This is why safety is the utmost priority.

And the last thing people want to hear when boarding an airplane, is a bomb.

In July 2022, prior to boarding an easyJet flight with his friends to Menorca in Spain from London’s Gatwick Airport, 18-year-old Aditya Verma sent a message to his friend on Snapchat, saying that:

"On my way to blow up the plane (I’m a member of the Taliban)."
Aditya Verma
Aditya Verma arrested by the authorities. A bomb joke is no joke.

A joke, but to most people, that is the worst kind of joke.

Putting words like "explosion," "Taliban," and "plane" into one message or sentence have triggered the British police's cybersecurity systems.

And because Aditya sent the message while using the airport's Wi-Fi network, it was easy for his message to be flagged by the authorities, while his flight was still in the air.

It was also easy for the authorities to recognize Aditya, and go after him.

The thing is, the authorities didn't know it was a joke.

Aditya's message had been intercepted by British security services, who reported his "blow up" comment to Spanish authorities.

Spain subsequently scrambled two F-18 fighter jets, which escorted the plane Aditya was on until it reached its destination.

Several hours later, after the plane landed, Aditya was deplaned.

He was arrested, and sent to a local prison by the authorities.

But since everything was a plain joke, and that Aditya had no intention for causing this whole commotion, Aditya was only held for two days, before he was finally being released on bail.

While he clearly explained that the whole thing was a joke, the authorities didn't take this joke lightly.

After his arrest, and following his release from prison, he was questioned by numerous British intelligence services, including MI5 and MI6, who investigated whether he had connections to terror organizations.

His phone was confiscated, and that his internet history was combed through as he was questioned.

They said that Aditya had previously researched for clashes between Pakistan and India, and the possibilities of an Islamic State attack in the area.

However, they confirmed they found nothing of interest that linked Aditya to jihadist radicalism, or any Taliban for that matter.

While authorities ultimately decided that Aditya was not a threat to national security, he was still charged by the Spanish government.

Aditya's trial was over a charge of public disorder, not terrorism charges, and that it took place in January, 2024, in Madrid.

He told the court the message was "a joke in a private group setting."

"It was just sent to my friends I was travelling with on the day," he added. “Since school, it's been a joke because of my features [...] It was just to make people laugh."

" [...] I used to joke about it and I know the Taliban is considered to be a terrorist group, but I didn’t think it was going to cause people on the flight to be afraid because it was sent to a private friends’ group and wasn’t meant for them."

His lawyer noted that Aditya "didn’t put his message on Facebook or advertise it," and that the message he sent was the “equivalent of making a joke inside a car with friends.”

Aditya Verma
far right) during his trial.

During the court hearing, Aditya was also asked what he thought was happening when the F-18 fighter jets were spotted.

"The Russia-Ukraine war was happening so I thought it was a military exercise related to [that] conflict," he said.

He also explained that the pilot made an announcement and told passengers that the F-18s had been dispatched due to a distress signal that had been sent in error.

The pilot likely said this to prevent panic, and prevent the "terrorist" from exploding the bomb early.

Aditya expressed his regret at the entire situation.

"It was a moment of madness which I regret and I'm so sorry for the trouble I caused. It was a joke and I didn't mean anything by it," he said.

"I'm sorry for ruining my friends' holiday but it was all just a joke and I didn't mean to scare anyone on the plane if they were frightened by what happened."