The incident took place late Sunday on Alitalia Flight AZ329, the airline said in a statement. It described the assailant as "a passenger in an evident state of agitation" who assaulted a flight attendant. Reports differ as to the weapon, with some saying the man brandished a small knife and held it to a flight attendant's throat, and others saying he used a nail clipper that managed to allude security checks.
Alitalia credited the plane's crew with saving the 131 passengers' lives. "Thanks to the swift intervention of the other flight attendants, the attacker was restrained in his seat, and the flight continued towards Rome Fiumicino, where it landed normally at 21:55" local time, it said. One report said a doctor aboard the flight gave a sedative to the man.
The suspect, identified as 48-year-old Kazakh citizen Valeriy Tolmachev, was arrested immediately after the plane landed in Rome. Tolmachev is believed to have been working in Paris, reportedly as an adviser to Kazakhstan's delegation at UNESCO. He has no previous criminal record, and his motive remains unclear.
He was transferred today to a jail north of Rome, where reports say he's being interrogated by Italian frontier police.