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LONDON – Britain’s foreign intelligence service is investigating whether al-Qaida hackers –described as some of the best in the world – broke into the state-of-the-art computerized systems of the British Airways flight that crash-landed in London last week.

Sources have confirmed hackers could have tampered with the Boeing 777 before it left Beijing en route to Heathrow Airport, where it landed at the very time British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was about to take off in an identical aircraft on his visit to China.

“It could be possible to interfere with one of the electronic systems on board Flight 38 so that a total malfunction could be generated as it was on its final approach,” an intelligence source confirmed.

Meanwhile, British foreign intelligence service agents, two of whom were on board the Brown flight to Beijing, are checking the background of the ground crews at Beijing Airport who were responsible for fueling the 777.

Around the Pacific Rim, some of the fuel loaders are Pakistani, and intelligence services for Britain and other nations fear background security checks have been lax.

Concerns also have been raised about cabin cleaners, who have ready access to the flight deck while preparing an aircraft for take-off.

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