Two terror suspects held on aircraft over “mock bomb” dry run which may be a false alarm.
The FBI probe of two men arrested in Amsterdam after suspicious items turned up in one of the men's luggage is finding they were probably not on a test run for a future terror attack. (Aug. 31)
By Peter Finn
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 31, 2010; 2:41 PM
Two Yemeni men who flew from Chicago to Amsterdam and were detained Monday in the Netherlands on suspicion of planning a terrorist act do not appear to be involved in any conspiracy and did not know each other before they were arrested, according to two U.S. law enforcement officials.
The officials said suspicions that the men were involved in an attempt to test the security of the aviation system with fake bombs appeared misplaced. Rather, they said, the two became the focus of an international terrorism scare as a result of a series of odd events.
"It doesn't look like a conspiracy, or a test run," said one law enforcement official. "And these guys don't show up on any of our lists."
Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al-Soofi, a permanent resident of the United States, was traveling from Birmingham, Ala., to Chicago. From Chicago, he planned to connect to a flight to Washington Dulles International Airport and fly from there to Yemen.
In Birmingham, he declared that he was carrying $7,000 in cash and underwent additional screening. In his checked luggage, security screeners found a cellphone taped to a Pepto-Bismol bottle, three cellphones taped together and a number of watches taped together.
In Chicago, Soofi missed his flight because of a gate change, and the airline booked him on an alternative route through Amsterdam. But his suitcase with the suspicious items continued to Dulles, setting off alarms and prompting American officials to alert Dutch authorities.
Hezem Abdullah Thabi al-Murisi, a Yemeni citizen, also missed his flight in Chicago. He was booked to Amsterdam as well and seated beside Soofi. The two did not know each other before getting on the same flight, the official said. And Murisi may have been dragged into the investigation only because he ended sitting beside Soofi.
The two men were detained by Dutch officials after United Airlines Flight 908 landed at Schiphol Airport on Monday morning.
In a statement, the Dutch prosecutor's office said the two Yemenis were arrested "on the basis of information provided by the U.S. authorities." It said they were traveling to Sanaa, the Yemeni capital.
U.S. officials said they have not closed the book on the investigation because they still want Soofi to explain why he taped various items together as he did. But they said the explanation of some of his relatives that he used the tape to separate different things for different relatives in Yemen could be plausible.
"We see a lot of strange stuff in luggage," said a second law enforcement official.
Suspects Had Been Cleared Sunday by TSA in Chicago, Birmingham Despite Security Concerns. Two men taken off a Chicago-to-Amsterdam United Airlines flight in the Netherlands have been charged by Dutch police with "preparation of a terrorist attack," U.S. law enforcement officials tell ABC News.
U.S. officials said the two appeared to be travelling with what were termed "mock bombs" in their luggage. "This was almost certainly a dry run, a test," said one senior law enforcement official.
A spokesman for the Dutch public prosecutor, Ernst Koelman, confirmed the two men were arrested this morning and said "the investigation is ongoing." He said the arrests were made "at the request of American authorities." The two were allowed to board the flight at O'Hare airport last night despite security concerns surrounding one of them, the officials said.
The men were identified as Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al Soofi, of Detroit, MI, and Hezem al Murisi, the officials said. A neighbor of al Soofi told ABC News he is from Yemen.
Airport security screeners in Birmingham, Alabama first stopped al Soofi and referred him to additional screening because of what officials said was his "bulky clothing." In addition, officials said, al Soofi was found to be carrying $7,000 in cash and a check of his luggage found a cell phone taped to a Pepto-Bismol bottle, three cell phones taped together, several watches taped together, a box cutter and three large knives. Officials said there was no indication of explosives and he and his luggage were cleared for the flight from Birmingham to Chicago O'Hare. Once in Chicago, officials say they learned al Soofi checked his luggage on a flight to Washington's Dulles airport for connections on flights to Dubai and then Yemen, even though he did not board the flight himself.
Instead, officials say, al Soofi was joined by the second man, Al Murisi, and boarded the United flight from Chicago to Amsterdam.
When Customs and Border officials learned al Soofi was not on the flight from Dulles to Dubai, the plane was ordered to return to the gate so his luggage could be removed. Officials said additional screening found no evidence of explosives.
The two men were detained by Dutch authorities when the United flight landed in Amsterdam, according to the officials.
Tags: Cell, Phone, Video, Of, Yemenis, Arrested, On, Plane, After, Alleged, 'Trial, Run, Of, Terrorist, Plot', , , ,
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