Monday, December 24, 2001

Remember 9-11-01

Honolulu Airport
increases security
after threat

FBI arrest man suspected of trying
to set off a bomb on a trans-Atlantic flight

Major disaster averted, FBI says

By B.J. Reyes

The Federal Aviation Administration has stepped up security measures at Honolulu Airport in response to this weekend's explosives scare aboard an international flight bound for Miami, an FAA official said.

"Our local FAA security team met with other law enforcement agencies (yesterday), and we have, in fact, enhanced our security procedures," said Tweet Coleman, FAA Pacific representative.

Coleman said she could not provide details of the new security measures at Honolulu Airport.

"We would like to say what they are to give people some level of comfort," she said. "At the same time, if we say what they are, then the enemies will think of another way."

The FAA ordered airlines and airports to guard against passengers boarding a plane with explosives hidden in their shoes, agency spokeswoman Laura Brown said yesterday in Washington, D.C.

The security directive came in response to Saturday's incident aboard a Paris-to-Miami flight. The flight was escorted to Boston by F-15s after a passenger, identified by French authorities as a Sri Lankan named Tariq Raja, attempted to light what preliminary tests showed was an explosive hidden in his sneakers.

Since Sept. 11, enhanced security measures at airports have included the presence of National Guardsmen in terminals and increased scrutiny of passengers, with metal detectors and random searches of carry-on baggage.

Coleman said she had not heard of the new measures slowing down foot traffic at the airport any more than usual.

She added that security personnel at Honolulu Airport, as well as across the country, had been told to be on extra alert in recent days.

"Globally, the FAA had expected some threats during the holidays, so it doesn't really come as a total surprise, unfortunately," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Major disaster averted, FBI says

The man suspected of trying to set off a
bomb in flight is in custody No evidence
found linking him to Osama bin Laden's
terror network

By Steve LeBlanc
Associated Press

BOSTON >> A man who allegedly tried to set off explosives hidden in his shoes on a trans-Atlantic flight was ordered held in federal custody today, and authorities said they had no evidence to link him to Osama bin Laden's terror network.

The suspect, listed in court papers as Richard C. Reid, appeared in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith Dein, sitting alone and dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit and sandals. He showed little emotion, and when she asked if he understood the charge -- intimidation or assault of a flight crew -- he answered quietly, "Yeah."

Reid, 28, requested a court-appointed attorney and was ordered held pending a bail hearing Friday. If convicted, he could be sentenced to 20 years in prison. The FBI said more charges are likely.

The explosives devices detected in preliminary tests on Reid's sneakers were functional and could have caused serious damage if detonated, said Charles Prouty, the Special Agent in Charge of the Boston FBI office.

"It would have resulted in significant damage and we did avert a major disaster," he said. He declined to detail what the explosives were.

Airports around the country and in Europe ratcheted up security yet another notch after Reid was subdued by passengers and taken into custody Saturday. Some airports are requiring passengers to send their shoes through X-ray machines.

The Federal Aviation Administration yesterday ordered U.S. airlines and airports to be more vigilant in screening passengers' shoes. The order follows a similar one issued Dec. 11, warning that hijackers might try to smuggle weapons in their footwear, and it poses a challenge for U.S. airports.

In the United States, the current generation of walk-through machines that screen passengers for weapons can't detect plastic explosives, and most airline passengers and their carry-on bags aren't checked for explosives by other means, such as bomb-sniffing dogs.

On Saturday's American Airlines flight, two flight attendants and at least a half-dozen passengers grabbed the suspect and used belts to strap him into his seat while two doctors used drugs from the airplane's medical kit to sedate him. The Boeing 767 jetliner was carrying 183 passengers and 14 crew members.

Prouty said the FBI is investigating whether Reid had links to al-Qaida, and hasn't ruled anything out. A government official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, said investigators had no clues linking Reid to the terror network.

Reid was being held under constant watch in a jail in Plymouth, the sheriff's department said.

The suspect's true identity remains unclear. The name Reid appears on his British passport, and officials at Scotland Yard said they believed he was a British national. French authorities initially identified the suspect as a Sri Lankan named Tariq Raja, citing information from U.S. investigators. But a French official said today that investigators in France consider him to be a British national, and U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan said the passport appeared legitimate.

French police are probing how someone with a one-way ticket and only one small bag eluded increased security measures at Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris, where Flight 63 originated.

French authorities said Reid had tried to board the same Miami-bound flight a day earlier but was turned away after raising suspicions. They said the suspect -- who also has gone by a third name, Abdel Rahim -- was given permission to board after intensive questioning, but by then had missed Friday's flight.

Passengers said they had noticed the 6-foot-4, ponytailed man standing alone and stone-faced before boarding.

"He had a blank look," said Nicholas Green, 27. "The people who had seen him remembered him."

During the flight, Reid, who was sitting behind the wing in the coach section, lit a match, but put it in his mouth when confronted by flight attendant Hermis Moutardier, the FBI said in an affidavit.

Moutardier told the captain and returned to see Reid with a match held to his sneaker, then noticed a wire protruding from the shoe. She tried to grab the sneaker, but Reid allegedly pushed her to the floor, and she screamed for help.

Another flight attendant, Cristina Jones, intervened and Reid bit her, authorities said.

"He bit Ms. Jones on the thumb and Ms. Moutardier threw water in his face," FBI agent Margaret G. Cronin said.

That's when passengers reached Reid and subdued him.

Marcos Obermaier, 42, of Miami, a passenger who guarded Reid with a fire extinguisher, told ABC's "Good Morning America" that a group jumped Reid. "He definitely had a crazed look in his eyes."

The plane was escorted to Logan Airport by two F-15 fighter jets.

Kwame James, a Trinidadian who plays professional basketball in France, helped subdue the man. James said when one passenger asked about his motivation, Reid responded, "Don't worry. You'll see."

While U.S. airlines have a deadline of Jan. 18 for having a system in place to inspect all checked baggage for explosives, walk-through devices to detect them on passengers are still in the development stage.

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