Yemenis Questioned at JFK Airport

Yemeni citizens trying to board a British Airways flight at New York's JFK airport are detained and questioned. A Russian symphony is kicked off a flight after breaking out the booze. An Iranian man is charged with trying to bring a gun aboard a Miami flight. Seven women sue terrorists over the deaths of their loved ones on Sept. 11.

31 Yemenis Stopped at JFK

N E W Y O R K, Feb. 20 — Several passengers were detained and questioned after trying to board a British Airways flight from Kennedy International Airport with improper travel documents for their trip to Yemen, police and airline representatives said today.

The passengers were scheduled to take British Airways Flight 116 at 11 p.m. Tuesday bound for Yemen with a connection in London, said Pasquale DiFulco, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport.

DiFulco said British Airways notified the authority that several of the 31 passengers on the flight were traveling on one-way tickets. The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force was called. The passengers were kept from boarding, he said.

Diana Fung, a U.S.-based spokeswoman for the airline, said some of the 31 passengers produced proper documentation and were allowed to board the flight and depart, but she did not know the exact number.

Jim Margolin, an FBI spokesman, did not immediately return a call seeking the number of people investigated and their status.

A police source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the task force was concerned that seven Yemeni passengers had all bought one-way tickets, with cash, from the same travel agency. It was later learned that the seven people and three others on the flight did not have proper documentation to enter Yemen, the source said.

The source said the seven people in question had apparently been cleared after questioning.

"We have a very strict security system in place," said Fung, the airline spokeswoman. She said British Airways does not board passengers who cannot produce the appropriate documents for their travel.

The Yemeni mission in New York said it was not aware of any problems involving Yemenis on Tuesday's flight.

— The Associated Press

Rowdy Russian Symphony Booted Off Flight

L O S A N G E L E S, Feb. 20 — Members of Russia's oldest symphony orchestra were removed from a commercial airliner after becoming rowdy en route to a performance in Los Angeles, United Airlines officials said.

About 90 members of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic were aboard a flight from Amsterdam on Monday when some began talking loudly and bothering other passengers, airline officials said. After some refused to take their seats or follow crew members' orders, the members were escorted from the flight during a scheduled stop at Washington's Dulles International Airport.

After spending a night in a hotel, they were allowed to board another flight to Los Angeles on Tuesday and were still expected to perform at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion tonight.

"That 24 hours brought a lot of clarity for them," United spokeswoman Susana Leyva said. "From the moment they reached the gate area, they acted appropriately. In fact, they were very mum."

Leyva said the airline outlined a conduct agreement which would put the crew in charge during the flight.

"Our representative was very confident that they would observe all safety rules on board the flight," she said, adding that there were no other problems involving the orchestra.

Philharmonic spokeswoman Yekaterina Grebentsova said she doubted the incident was extreme as reports she has seen.

"All these talks seem to present some exaggerated rumors taking place on the background of a noticeably negative attitude toward Russia lately," she said. "Just look at the Olympics."

Airline officials said Monday's problems on United Flight 947 began after some orchestra members broke out bottles of liquor they had carried on board with them.

Known for years as the Leningrad Philharmonic, the St. Petersburg group traces its roots to 1882. It last toured the United States in 1998.

— The Associated Press

Man Charged With Trying to Bring Gun on Flight

M I A M I, Feb. 20 — An Iranian man carried a gun aboard a flight to Miami from the Caribbean island of St. Martin and was arrested at the Miami airport when he tried to board a connecting flight, police and the FBI said today. Iradj Eftekharipour, 37, was arrested Monday evening on a charge of attempting to carry a firearm on a commercial aircraft, Miami-Dade County Police said. He was trying to board an American Airlines flight from Miami to Reagan National Airport in Washington, FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela said. "He was going through a screener and they saw something unusual in his fanny pack," Orihuela said. Police said the black metal revolver was loaded with "six projectiles," which Orihuela described as rubber bullets. The man told police that he carried the gun "for his own protection," Orihuela said. Security at U.S. airports has been stepped up following the Sept 11. attacks on the United States in which four planes were hijacked. Investigators were still trying to find out how Eftekharipour had boarded the flight to Miami with the gun, said Orihuela. Eftekharipour is an Iranian national but may have been living in Illinois, she said. He was arrested by local police but was expected to be transferred to federal custody today to face federal charges of carrying a weapon aboard a commercial flight.

— Reuters

Sept. 11 Victims’ Loved Ones Sue to Bankrupt Terrorists

W A S H I N G T O N, Feb. 20 — Seven women who lost men they love in the World Trade Center see their long-shot legal effort to bankrupt terrorists and their supporters as a crucial step in reassembling their shattered lives.

"My canvas has been wiped clean," said Tara Bane, one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against a litany of defendants it claims are directly and indirectly responsible for the attacks. "I have to take some kind of action. I will not give up on my life." Those named in the suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, include accused terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, his al Qaeda network, Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers and the estates of the 19 terrorist hijackers. The suit also targets the governments of Iran and Iraq for alleged sponsorship of the terrorists; Zacarias Moussaoui,; the only man U.S. authorities have so far charged in the attacks; and 141 individuals and entities whose assets have been frozen by the United States since Sept. 11 for allegedly financing terrorist operations. The action seeks at least $100 billion in total damages. "We intend to bankrupt them," lead attorney Thomas Mellon said. The plaintiffs are all Pennsylvania residents who lost family members when hijacked airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center towers. They are seeking to have the lawsuit certified as a class-action suit that would eventually include all victims of the New York, Pentagon and Pennsylvania crashes. Describing, at times tearfully, final phone calls and hugs with the men they lost, the awful day of the attacks and the nightmarish weeks since, the women said they are determined to irreversibly cripple the terrorists' ability to attack again. "Our goal is simple. We want to prevent all those responsible for our losses from ever inflicting such pain on others," said Fiona Havlish, whose husband, Don, worked on the 101st floor of the south tower. They emphasized that they have no intention of targeting American companies. They also made it clear that, after months of grieving over past memories and lost futures, it was time for constructive action. The women recognize that they may never recover any money — even if they succeed at the difficult tasks of proving the culpability of the named parties and locating their assets. "We harbor no false illusions," said Ellen Saracini. "We know this is a difficult path we choose. We know our chances for success are limited. But we must do something." Sacarini's husband, Victor, was the pilot of the United Airlines flight that slammed into the south tower. At the least, Mellon said, they hope to win judgments against the defendants that would prevent them from having access to their assets around the world. Though millions of dollars in assets believed linked to suspected terrorists have already been frozen worldwide, Mellon noted that the United States and other governments do not have the power to seize the funds. There have been several successful lawsuits against Iran, filed under a federal law that allows victims to seek damages from nations that sponsor terrorism. American terror victims have claimed millions from Iran's frozen assets. The government's victims compensation fund provides money only for those who forfeit the right to sue — except if the suit is against a terrorist. Justice Department officials have said other victims' families suing bin Laden, al Qaeda and the Taliban are still eligible for the fund.

— The Associated Press