LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - An orthodox Jewish prayer
observance by three passengers aboard an Alaska Airlines flight
Sunday alarmed flight attendants unfamiliar with the ritual,
prompting them to lock down the cockpit and issue a security
alert, officials said.
Alaska Flight 241 from Mexico City to Los Angeles
International Airport landed safety at LAX and was met by fire
crews, foam trucks, FBI agents, Transportation Security
Administration personnel and police dispatched as a
The three men, all Mexican nationals, were escorted off the
plane by police and questioned by the FBI before being released
to make connecting flights to other countries, FBI spokeswoman
Laura Eimiller said. No charges were filed, she said.
The three passengers had startled members of the cabin crew
with what what was interpreted as suspicious behavior shortly
after takeoff, airline spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said.
"The three passengers were praying aloud in Hebrew and were
wearing what appeared to be leather straps on their foreheads
and arms," she said. "This appeared to be a security threat,
and the pilots locked down the flight deck and followed
standard security procedures."
It turned out the passengers were engaged in the wearing of
tefillin -- small, black prayer boxes containing scripture that
devout Jews bind to their foreheads and arms with black leather
straps in a daily ritual accompanied by special prayers.
Asked about the authorities' reaction to the alert,
Eimiller said: "We're obligated, of course, to respond when the
flight calls us to clear up concerns."
(Reporting by Steve Gorman. Editing by Peter Bohan)
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