On US flight to Holland, a terror strike dry run?
Category : world on September 01, 2010
WASHINGTON: Two United States residents of Yemeni descent who flew from Chicago to Amsterdam were detained by the Dutch police after landing on Monday in a bizarre episode that American officials feared might be a dry run for a terrorist plot.
But American law enforcement officials cautioned that the men had
not been charged with any crime and that the episode might be a misunderstanding. "There's nothing at all confirmed at this point that's associated with terrorism," one official said.
But on Tuesday, Dutch prosecutors said the two were arrested after US security found a cellphone taped to a bottle in their luggage and that they were being held for possible terrorism offences.
A search of one of the men by airport security screeners in Birmingham, Alabama, as he waited to board a flight to Chicago on Sunday found that he was carrying $7,000 in cash and that his luggage contained a cellphone taped to a bottle of Pepto-Bismol, three cellphones taped together and several watches taped together, a senior official said.
Because no evidence of explosives was found, the man, 48, was permitted to fly to O'Hare Airport in Chicago. He was joined there by the second man, a 37-year-old, and they both boarded United Airlines Flight 908 to Amsterdam.
American officials said federal air marshals had been aboard the flight, which continued to its destination without incident.
But officials discovered that at Birmingham, the 48-year-old passenger had checked his luggage on a different set of flights, to Dulles International Airport outside Washington and on to Sana, Yemen, by way of Dubai. After security agents realized that he had not boarded the flight from Chicago to Dulles, they ordered the airliner back to the gate and retrieved his luggage, which contained the suspicious items. "
A Dutch official said the two men had been detained by the police upon their arrival at Schiphol Airport at the request of the American authorities "on the basis of suspicions of preparation for terrorist attacks." The official said the men were being questioned by the police.
Omar Sufi of Detroit, who said he was a cousin of one the flyers who boarded in Alabama, said his kin's actions did not sound unusual. He said that his cousin had most likely been trying to take medication and phones back to his family, and that it was common to bind together items meant for the same recipient. "This is our culture," he said.
A delegation of Pakistani military officers, traveling to the United States Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida, was removed from a flight at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, a Pakistani official said.
The nine passengers were removed before takeoff from United Airlines Flight 727 after one of them made what a flight attendant considered to be an "inappropriate remark," a spokesman for the airline said.