- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 25, 2001

BOSTON Explosive devices that a man is accused of smuggling aboard an airliner in his sneakers were strong enough to cause serious damage and would have created a "major disaster" if detonated on the Paris-to-Miami flight, the FBI said yesterday.
The suspect, whose identity is still not clear, was ordered held in federal custody yesterday pending a bail hearing. Authorities said they had no evidence to link the 28-year-old man to Osama bin Laden's terror network.
The man was traveling on a British passport identifying him as Richard C. Reid, but was initially identified by French authorities as a Sri Lankan named Tariq Raja. A French official said yesterday that investigators there consider him a British national, and U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan said the passport appeared legitimate. He also has used the name Abdel Rahim.
The scraggly haired Mr. Reid appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith Dein yesterday, sitting alone and dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit and prison-issued plastic sandals. He showed little emotion, and when asked if he understood the charge intimidation or assault of a flight crew he answered quietly: "Yeah."
Mr. Reid asked for a court-appointed attorney and was ordered held pending a bail hearing Friday. If convicted, he could be sentenced to 20 years in prison. The FBI said more charges are likely.
During the American Airlines flight Saturday, two flight attendants and at least a half-dozen passengers grabbed Mr. Reid and used belts to strap him into his seat after, the passengers say, he tried to touch a lit match to a fuse protruding from one of his shoes.
The Boeing 767 airliner, carrying 183 passengers and 14 crew members, was escorted to Boston by two fighter jets.
One passenger who helped subdue the man, Kwame James of Trinidad, said that when other passengers asked Mr. Reid why he did it, "He just kind of smiled and didn't say too much."
He said Mr. Reid told one passenger: "Don't worry. You'll see."
Investigators would not identify the type of explosive material they said was found in devices in Mr. Reid's sneakers, but said preliminary FBI tests determined the devices were functional.
"It would have resulted in significant damage, and we did avert a major disaster," said Charles Prouty, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Boston office.
Mr. Reid will undergo a routine psychiatric evaluation, said jail spokesman Michael Seele in Plymouth.
"He's been very compliant," Mr. Seele said. "He's been very cooperative."
Mr. Prouty said the FBI was investigating whether Mr. Reid had links to bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist group, and hasn't ruled anything out. But a government official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, said investigators had nothing to link him to al Qaeda.
Mr. Reid met with an officer from the British Consulate in Boston just before yesterday's hearing. The meeting is standard for anyone presumed to be British and charged with a serious crime, said consulate press officer Terri Evans.
"The issue of confirming his identity and nationality is part of the investigation with Scotland Yard and FBI," Miss Evans said. "We'll go with the assumption he is British unless we learn something to the contrary."
U.S. authorities have issued a new security directive to airlines and airport authorities in the wake of Saturday's flight, the Federal Aviation Administration said yesterday.
The directive, issued late Sunday, "requires airports and airlines to take specific action" to step up security for aviation, said FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown.
Airports around the country and in Europe boosted security following the incident. Some are requiring passengers to send their shoes through X-ray machines. Paris airports increased the number of bomb-sniffing dogs.
Walk-through X-ray machines used in the United States to screen passengers for weapons can't detect plastic explosives, and most passengers and their carry-on bags aren't checked for explosives by other means, such as bomb-sniffing dogs.
While Congress has ordered that U.S. airlines have a system by Jan. 18 to inspect all checked baggage for explosives, walk-through devices that could detect them on passengers are still in the developmental stage.
During the flight, Mr. Reid, who was sitting behind the wing in the coach section, lit a match, but put it in his mouth when confronted by flight attendant Hermis Moutardier, the FBI said in an affidavit.
Miss Moutardier told the captain and returned to see Mr. Reid with a match held to the tongue of his sneaker, then noticed a wire protruding from the shoe. She tried to grab the sneaker, but Mr. Reid reportedly pushed her to the floor and she screamed for help.
Another flight attendant, Cristina Jones, intervened and Mr. Reid bit her hand, authorities said.
Miss Moutardier threw water in his face and other passengers reached Mr. Reid and subdued him, agents said.

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