Two Men Arrested on United Flight on Terror Concerns Freed Without Charges

Officials Say Questions Linger About 'Strange' Luggage but New Information Shows No Security Threat


Sept. 1, 2010—

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.

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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.

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The door of his apartment in Tuscaloosa appeared to have been forced open.

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