In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful
I remember the day the news broke: two men, of Yemeni descent, were arrested in Amsterdam on suspicion that they were doing a “dry run” of a terrorist attack. Here is part of the news story from Fox News:
Two men from the Detroit area were arrested in Amsterdam on a flight arriving from Chicago, reportedly suspected of assessing the aviation system for a potential future terror attack.
The two men did not have prohibited items on them, a law enforcement official told Fox News, saying that although knives were found in their checked luggage, such checked items aren’t prohibited. Law enforcement officials also found several non-functioning cell phones taped together, a phone taped to a Pepto Bismol bottle and a knife and box cutter in checked luggage connected with the men.
“Suspicious items were located in checked luggage associated with two passengers on United Flight 908 from Chicago O’Hare to Amsterdam,” the Transportation Safety Administration said in a written statement. “The items were not deemed to be dangerous in and of themselves.”
The local news here in Chicago was all abuzz about this possible “terror arrest.”
Then, as the days passed, very little was known about this possible “terror dry run.” I myself was wondering about these two men and what was the follow up. I mean, if this really was a “dry run” for a terrorist attack, that is very important to know.
It seems that this was probably a false alarm:
Dutch prosecutors have let go two Yemeni men who were initially detained over concerns of a possible terror “dry run,” they said Wednesday.
Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al Soofi and Hezam al Murisi were arrested during a United Flight from Chicago to Amsterdam Monday. They were released without charges.
American law enforcement officials say their initial concerns about a possible terror “dry run” involving the two eased, in part because they have learned the men’s abrupt change in flights resulted from them missing their original flight.
“These two passengers have not been charged with any crime in the United States and we caution you against jumping to any conclusions,” said a statement issued by the Department of Homeland Security Tuesday afternoon.
Al Soofi began his trip in Birmingham, Alabama and al Murisi started from Memphis, Tennessee.
Airport screeners discovered al Soofi had several items in his checked luggage that raised concerns, including a cell phone taped to a Pepto-Bismol bottle, other cell phones, and watches wrapped in tape. Such items can be transported legally in checked baggage but authorities raised the possibility they may have been a “mock bomb.”
The description of the items was passed to authorities in Amsterdam.
American authorities had initially become concerned when the two men changed their travel plans at O’Hare airport in Chicago Sunday night, while their luggage, with its “strange” contents, continued on the original set of flights bound for Sanaa, Yemen.
American officials say they now believe the two men did not know each other and both were re-booked by United after they missed their flight because of a gate change at O’Hare.
In its statement, DHS said the incident “illustrates how airport security protocols, law enforcement cooperation, and prompt international information sharing allows us to respond quickly to potential threats.”
Friends and neighbors of al Soofi in Detroit and Tuscaloosa, Alabama said FBI agents had shown up early Monday to investigate the Yemeni’s background.
The door of his apartment in Tuscaloosa appeared to have been forced open.
Both ABC NEWS and Fox News were responsible enough to post that the men were freed without charges, and I applaud them for it. Yet, the buzz about their release was hardly heard compared to that of their capture.
Now, do I blame authorities for doing what they did? Absolutely not. They acted responsibly, as they should have, given the circumstances. When people check their bags on a flight then abruptly change flight plans…it is suspicious. I mean, we are in a post-9/11 era.
Furthermore, I am grateful that the authorities, after learning the truth that the actions of these men had a perfectly good explanation, let them go, as they should have. I just wish more people would have known this, and this is why I am posting this news here.