Two With Ties To Detroit Area Held In Terror Plot

By Nathan Hurst, Robert Snell and Mark Hicks for The Detroit News

Two men with ties to Metro Detroit are being held in Amsterdam after one was suspected of making a trial run in preparation for a terrorist attack, federal authorities said.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said suspicious items were found in the checked luggage of one passenger, Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al Soofi of Tuscaloosa, Ala., flying on a United Airlines flight Sunday night from Chicago to Amsterdam. Another man, Hezem al Murisi of Memphis, was also detained.

“Suspicious items were located in checked luggage associated with two passengers on United Flight 908 from Chicago O’Hare to Amsterdam last night,” department officials said in a statement Monday.

“The items were not deemed to be dangerous in and of themselves, and as we share information with our international partners, Dutch authorities were notified of the suspicious items.”

Dutch authorities arrested the two men at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on charges of preparing for a terrorist attack.

A Transportation Security Administration official said al Soofi had originally booked a ticket from Birmingham to Chicago and onward to Washington, D.C.’s Dulles International and then to Dubai and Yemen.

In Birmingham on Sunday, al Soofi’s checked luggage drew the attention of TSA screeners, who found a taped bundle of watches, a similar bundle of cell phones, multiple knives, a box cutter and a cell phone taped to a bottle of Pepto-Bismol, among other suspicious items that were thought to be nonthreatening, allowing him to continue to Chicago.

Al Soofi was also carrying $7,000 in cash when boarding the flight in Birmingham.

His brother, Murad al Soofi, said the charges were so ludicrous that family members “were laughing about (the incident) when we heard it.”

“It’s ridiculous,” said Murad al Soofi, who owns a convenience store in Tuscaloosa, Ala., about an hour west of Birmingham.

He said his brother moved to Michigan from Yemen in 1997 and has a wife and five children — three boys and two girls — in his homeland. He moved to Tuscaloosa earlier this year in search of work after losing jobs in Detroit and Monroe, his brother said.

Murad al Soofi said his brother was flying to Yemen to visit his family, but had no explanation for why he wanted to change his flight in Chicago.

Al Soofi’s luggage made it to Chicago and to Washington, despite the fact he did not board the flight from Chicago to Washington.

Instead he changed his ticket at United’s hub at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport for the flight to Amsterdam. Normally, baggage and ticketed passengers must travel together, but it appears United officials didn’t notice the diverted baggage until the luggage arrived in Washington.

It was at Dulles where Customs and Border Patrol authorities stopped a Dubai-bound United flight and had it brought it back to the gate after it was discovered that al Soofi’s luggage was on board but he wasn’t. The luggage was off-loaded and the wide-bodied Boeing 777 arrived in Dubai about an hour late Monday morning, flight records show.

Both of the detained men are friends who lived and worked in Dearborn, said Imad Hamad of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. The al Soofi and al Murisi families are prominent within the Yemeni-American community in Dearborn, Hamad said.

Both men worked at area restaurants and grocery stores, and it is typical to spend several months working in Michigan and travel home once or twice a year to visit relatives in Yemen.

“When the news broke, people were surprised because they knew them as good people, respected people who always worked and worked hard,” Hamad said.

Al Soofi was believed to have recently lived at the Hidden Trail Apartments in Monroe.

Neighbors said he hadn’t been at the complex for at least a year. They remember him as a quiet man who associated with other local laborers. They said he sometimes covered his windows with cardboard.

Learning of his alleged involvement in preparing for a terrorist attack is “very upsetting,” said resident Stacy Louks, 32, who has lived in the complex for several years.

The incident echoes the Christmas Day bombing attempt of Flight 253 over Detroit’s skies.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is being held at the federal prison in Milan awaiting trial on terrorism charges related to that flight, which authorities say he failed to blow up using improvised explosives strapped in his underwear.

The incident sparked intense scrutiny of U.S. homeland security and border control policies and procedures. Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian native, was able to secure and retain a multiple-entry visa for the United States despite being denied entry by the United Kingdom and warnings from his own family to U.S. authorities that he was a potential terrorism risk.

His trial is slated to begin next year in Detroit.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note– If found guilty, these two individuals should be thrown in jail for life with no possibility of parole at the very least. Individuals like these do not really even deserve the rights and freedoms enjoyed by all Americans, but nonetheless should get their due process and if found guilty, deserve to have the book thrown at them and put away for life. Also, we are thankful that the authorities foiled this potential attack and request everyone to be vigilant as the September 11 anniversary approaches and we pray no acts of violence take place in the US or anywhere else taking innocent lives.

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