- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 23, 2001

An American Airlines flight bound from Paris to Miami was diverted for an emergency landing in Boston yesterday after crew members and passengers overpowered a man believed to be attempting to ignite explosives hidden in his shoes.
The Boeing 767 jetliner, identified as American Airlines Flight 63, was diverted and escorted to Logan International Airport in Boston by two U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter jets, where 185 passengers and 12 crew members were removed from the plane.
Two flight attendants were injured while subduing the man; one was taken to a hospital.
Officials at Logan airport said the unidentified passenger appeared to be an Arab traveling on a false British passport.
The FBI took the suspect into custody. A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that in recent weeks, the government issued a warning to airlines indicating potential hijackers might try to smuggle weapons in their shoes. The official declined to say what intelligence prompted the warning.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said last night that officials were determining whether the incident might signal the need for another broad warning to U.S. citizens.
Law enforcement authorities tentatively identified the explosives as "C-4 in nature," pending further analysis. C-4 is a plastic explosive developed by the U.S. military. It was used in the terrorist bombing in Yemen of the USS Cole, which killed 17 sailors.
"I'm told a flight attendant was drawn to him by the smell of sulfur from a lit match, and then challenged him as to what he was doing," Thomas Kinton, interim executive director of the Massachusetts Port Authority, told reporters after the plane landed.
Mr. Kinton said the man warned the flight attendant that he was "wired," and the attendant noticed his shoes contained what Mr. Kinton described as "improvised explosives," which he said were capable of doing damage to the jetliner.
The Port Authority official, who also is aviation director at Logan, said intervention by the crew and passengers aboard the flight "appeared to have prevented something very serious from occurring."
In addition to the odor of sulfur, Mr. Kinton said the flight attendant also saw a wire sticking out of the man's shoe.
The man, who was traveling alone on a false British passport issued three weeks ago in Belgium in the name of Richard Reid, reportedly became violent after being confronted by crew members.
Mr. Kinton said the flight attendants sought to subdue the man and called for assistance from several passengers, who immediately joined in to help. He said the man was tackled by the flight attendants and the passengers, and then strapped to a chair with seat belts.
Two doctors who were among the passengers then sedated the man using the airplane's onboard medical kit, Mr. Kinton said. The jetliner landed at Logan at 12:50 p.m. and was escorted to a remote runway at the airport.
Law enforcement authorities last night said the midair ordeal began at about 11 a.m. over the Atlantic Ocean, when a flight attendant first approached the man, asking what he was doing.
During the ensuing confrontation, two flight attendants were injured, one of whom was bitten by the man, who was described as being 6-foot-4. According to officials at the Massachusetts Port Authority, one attendant was taken to a hospital.
"The flight attendants were hurt during this, and yelled for help from other passengers and received that help from other passengers on board the aircraft," Mr. Kinton said.
Acting Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift praised those who helped the flight attendants subdue the suspect.
"The flight attendants and passengers who helped subdue the suspect showed great bravery and poise in what was obviously a very dangerous situation," the Republican governor said in a statement. "Their heroic acts may have potentially saved the lives of the nearly 200 people on board Flight 63."
Airports around the world have stepped up security in the wake of the September 11 attacks by Middle Eastern hijackers who commandeered jetliners they crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in western Pennsylvania. More than 3,000 people died in the suicide attacks.
Two of the four planes were American Airlines flights, one of which originated in Boston.
It was not clear last night how the unidentified passenger was able to pass through security in Paris with explosives packed in his shoes. He reportedly had no checked luggage and was traveling alone.
The White House monitored the situation throughout the afternoon and President Bush received two briefings, said Mr. McClellan.
In the past, Islamic terrorists have chosen the Christmas travel season for retaliatory attacks. Pan Am Flight 103 was brought down over Scotland by Libyan terrorists using plastic explosives on Dec. 21, 1988. U.S. officials have said that the bombing, which killed all 259 persons on the Boeing 747 and 11 persons on the ground, was retaliation for the accidental downing of an Iranian passenger jet in the Persian Gulf by a Navy warship.
Described as being in his late 20s, the unidentified passenger was taken into custody by FBI agents after the plane landed in Boston, and later questioned by members of the bureau's terrorism task force, officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and police from the Massachusetts Port Authority.
After the man had been removed from the plane without his shoes, members of a police bomb squad used an X-ray machine to determine there were enough explosives in the shoes to cause serious damage had the explosives been detonated.
Authorities said the holes had been drilled in the heel of at last one of the shoes, where a detonator wire was found along with explosive material tentatively identified as C-4.
The F-15 fighter jets were diverted to escort the plane within moments after the explosives were discovered and the captain reported the situation, FAA officials said.
"The pilot was sort of at the point of no return over the Atlantic [and] it was more efficient and effective to continue on to the U.S.," Mr. Kinton said. "I believe Boston was chosen because of the facilities that both American Airlines has here, as well as the team that is here in Boston.
"FBI, FAA security and state police and MassPort Fire Rescue were awaiting the arrival," he said, adding that when the aircraft landed, it was diverted to an inactive runway. "We used a runway that was not active, and closed that portion of the runway, and isolated the aircraft, as per procedure."

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