- The Washington Times - Monday, December 24, 2001

MIAMI Before boarding the plane, he had "a blank look" and seemed "like he was on something." Later, he turned into a man "almost possessed."
The man identified by French authorities as Tariq Raja caught the eye of some of the 185 passengers getting ready to board American Airlines Flight 63 on Saturday from Paris to Miami.
"He had a blank look," said Nicholas Green, a 27-year-old French trader, of the tall, roughly bearded and ponytailed man who stood alone. "The people who had seen him, remembered him."
Monique Danison, 20, told the Orange County Register by telephone from Boston that she had a bad feeling about Mr. Raja.
"He looked like he was on something," she said. "I remember thinking, 'If he's a terrorist, he's a moron,' because he stood out when I saw him."
About two or three hours later, authorities said, Mr. Raja tried to light explosives hidden in his shoe but was subdued by two flight attendants and six male passengers, with the help of a knockout sedative, authorities and passengers said.
One of those passengers, a 6-foot-8-inch 250-pound basketball player named Kwame James, yesterday said on the ABC News program "This Week" that the formerly blank-faced Sri Lankan put up a tough struggle.
"You know, he fought off at least three or four of us," Mr. James said. "But he was just unbelievably strong, almost possessed.
"So a doctor came by, gave him an injection, and then we tied him up with everything we could get our hands on belts, just anything that could tie [him]."
The Boeing 767 was diverted to Boston's Logan International Airport. Some of the passengers apparently stayed in Boston but most boarded another plane and resumed their flight to Miami, where they landed at 6:02 a.m. EST yesterday, more than 24 hours after their journey began.
Flight 63 was supposed to take off about 11 a.m. Paris time Saturday about 5 a.m. EST but was delayed for a half-hour by a strike of workers at Charles de Gaulle International Airport.
"We're French. We have strikes," said Jacques Valle'au, a Parisian fashion designer who traveled to Miami with his wife and 9-month-old son for a 10-day Christmas holiday.
Mr. Valle'au and his family settled into coach, as did Geoffrey Bessin, a New York-born software designer who lives in France, and Mr. Green. Peter Ensink, a Swiss salesman, sat in business class.
Mr. Raja, who authorities say was carrying a British passport that identified him as Richard Colvin Reid, also sat in coach, just behind the wing.
The flight was routine for the first two or three hours, according to about 10 passengers who spoke to reporters. Mr. Raja refused his lunch; the choice was turkey or salmon. Mr. Bessin listened to music on headphones and Mr. Valle'au tended to his child.
Then, some passengers smelled something burning perhaps matches, perhaps plastic. Smoking was prohibited on the flight, and an attendant went to investigate.
Passengers said the female flight attendant, whose name was not immediately released, suddenly jumped on Mr. Raja and screamed, "He bit me, he bit me."
Several men pounced on Mr. Raja, passengers said, and wrestled some burning material from his hand. One thinks a flight attendant hit Mr. Raja with a fire extinguisher.
One man pulled back Mr. Raja's hair while two French doctors used sedatives from the plane's medical kit to incapacitate him.
"They injected him with two or three shots," Mr. Green said. At least two men stayed with the tied-up man the rest of the flight.
Most of the passengers, while scared, didn't realize Mr. Raja apparently had explosives in his shoe. They thought he was simply a drunk or drug addict who had gotten out of hand.
"They asked us to please remain seated," Mr. Ensink said. "The way they explained it to me is some guy was drunk and he was trying to light his shoes."
Some passengers described the remainder of the flight as somewhat tense. Some people laughed at the in-flight movie, the comedy "Legally Blonde," but a few looked at their fellow passengers, wondering if there were accomplices.
"Some thought this was a terrorist attack," Mr. Bessin said. "A lot of others thought it was taken care of, and nothing bad happened, so let's go back to our movie. It was pretty relaxed, actually, at least where I was sitting."
At Boston, a SWAT team stormed the airplane and took Mr. Raja into custody.

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