- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 22, 2004


A London-to-Washington flight was diverted to Maine yesterday when passenger Yusuf Islam — formerly known as pop singer Cat Stevens — was found to be on a government watch list and barred from entering the country, two federal officials said.

United Airlines Flight 919 was en route to Washington Dulles International Airport when the match was made between a passenger and a name on the watch list, said Nico Melendez, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration.

The plane was met by federal agents at Maine’s Bangor International Airport around 3 p.m., Mr. Melendez said.

The two federal officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, identified the passenger as Mr. Islam, saying he was denied entry on national-security grounds, but had no details about why the singer might be a risk.

One official said Mr. Islam, 56, was identified by the Advanced Passenger Information System, which requires airlines to send passenger information to Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center. The Transportation Security Administration then was contacted and requested that the plane land at the nearest airport, that official said.

The second official said Mr. Islam was questioned by FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. After the interview, customs officials decided to deny the former singer entry into the United States. He was expected to be returned to London today, the official said.

Mr. Islam was born Stephen Georgiou and took Cat Stevens as a stage name and had a string of hits in the 1960s and ‘70s. He abandoned his music career in the late 1970s as contrary to Islamic law.

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