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Canadian plane thief put in custody in US

A man suspected of stealing a plane from a Canadian flight school, flying over three U.S. states and attracting F-16 fighter escorts has been put into custody by state troopers in the U.S. state of Missouri, according to reports reaching here on Tuesday.

Adam Leon, 31, was being held without bond, the Missouri State Highway Patrol said. U.S. Federal investigators plan to interview him later to determine whether he has violated immigration law, the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency said.

Leon was arrested at a convenience store in Ellsinore, in southeastern Mossouri shortly after he landed the single-engine, four-seat Cessna to end a six-hour flight on Monday night.

The plane was reported stolen on Monday afternoon from Confederation College Flight School at Thunder Bay International Airport in Canada's Ontario Province. It was intercepted by F-16 fighters from the Wisconsin National Guard after crossing into thestate near the Michigan border.

"We don't want to suppose the motive of the individual," said Kucharek, an official of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

NORAD is the bi-national Canadian and American command that is responsible for the air defense of North America and maritime warning.

"But it certainly made a day for the professional pilots that were flying these missions and a very serious situation from a NORAD perspective," said Kucharek.

In the midst of the pursuit, the state of Wisconsin evacuated the Capitol Building in state capital Madison for less than an hour as a precaution.

Eventually, the man landed the plane on a road in southeastern Missouri, parking it under what appeared to be a bridge or culvert, apparently to hide it, a federal law enforcement source said.

The pilot said he was trying to commit suicide but did not have the courage to do it himself. And his idea was to fly the aircraft into the United States, where he might be shot down.

FBI spokesman Richard Kolko told CNN that Leon was a native of Turkey who changed his name from Yavuz Berke and became a Canadian citizen last year.

(Xinhua News Agency April 8, 2009)