Dutch Question 2 Men in Suspected US Terror Probe

Tuesday, 31 Aug 2010 07:01 AM

 

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Dutch investigators on Tuesday questioned two men arrested at Amsterdam's airport after U.S. authorities found suspicious items in their checked luggage, including a cell phone taped to a Pepto-Bismol bottle and a knife and box cutter.

The pair were arrested Monday morning at Schiphol Airport after getting off a United Airlines flight from Chicago, where their decision to change their flight plans raised flags in the U.S., officials said.

They were being held at the airport for questioning, but neither has been charged with any offense in the Netherlands, said Martijn Boelhouwer, the national prosecutor's office spokesman.

Edmond Messchaert, a spokesman for the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism, said the organization was aware of the case, but would not comment further.

"We are in the loop. We were informed yesterday that this was going down and we are being kept informed of progress," Messchaert told The Associated Press.

Dutch authorities do not release the names of suspects in criminal investigations and Boelhouwer would not confirm their nationalities. He also declined to say if U.S. authorities had requested their extradition.

But a U.S. law enforcement official identified the men as Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al Soofi and Hezam al Murisi.

Al Soofi had a Michigan address, the official said, but it was not immediately clear where the two men were from. Another law enforcement official said, as of Monday night, the men had not been charged with anything in the U.S.

The law enforcement officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation and sensitive security issues.

Al Soofi was questioned as he went through security in Alabama on his way to Chicago, one of the officials said.

He told the Transportation Security Administration authorities he was carrying a lot of cash. Screeners found $7,000 on him, but he was not breaking any law by carrying that much money.

Officials also found multiple cell phones taped together and multiple watches taped together in his checked baggage.

Al Soofi was supposed to fly from Chicago to Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia, and then on to Amsterdam, the official said. But when he got to Chicago, he changed his travel plans to take a direct flight to Amsterdam.

Al Murisi also changed his travel plans in Chicago to take a direct flight to Amsterdam, raising suspicion among U.S. officials. Federal Air marshals were on the flight from Chicago to Amsterdam, a law enforcement official said.

Homeland Security spokeswoman Amy Kudwa said once officials found suspicious items in luggage associated with two passengers on Sunday night's flight, they notified the Dutch authorities.

"The items were not deemed to be dangerous in and of themselves," Kudwa said. She would not identify the passengers.

It is not illegal to carry knives or taped cell phones and watches in checked baggage.

——

Associated Press writers Eileen Sullivan in Washington, D.C., and Corey Williams in Detroit contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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