Liz Erk (lizerk) wrote,
Liz Erk
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Flight diverted to Boston after passenger tries to ignite 'improvised explosives'
By Theo Emery, Associated Press, 12/22/01


BOSTON -- A passenger on a jetliner bound from Paris to Miami tried to ignite an "improvised explosive" in his shoe Saturday, but the crew and fellow passengers subdued him, authorities said. The plane, escorted by military jets, landed safely in Boston.

The suspect, identified as Richard Reid, was taken into custody by the FBI. Officials said he was alone traveling on a British passport, which may have been fake.

"I'm told the 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," said Thomas Kinton, interim executive director of the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs the airport.

The flight attendant intervened after the man tried to light his shoe on fire, and the 6-foot-4 Reid resisted and bit her, Massport spokeswoman Laura White said.

Passengers subdued him, belting him into his seat. Two doctors used the airplane's onboard medical kit to sedate him, and the man's shoe, which had protruding wires, was removed.

Two F-15 fighter jets escorted the plane, American Airlines Flight 63, to Logan, where it landed at 12:50 p.m. with police, fire and bomb squads standing by. The 185 passengers and 12 crew members were taken off safely.

"They X-rayed the shoe and found that in the heel, there were holes drilled, and there looked to be a detonator wire, and the substances consistent with (the explosive) C-4," White said.

The shoe was taken from the plane, rendered harmless and taken to an FBI laboratory for analysis, White said.

White said Reid's passport, issued in Belgium three weeks ago, was "questionable." He boarded the plane without luggage or additional identification.

Reid was being interrogated at the airport by the FBI. The other passengers were also being questioned, White said.

The intervention on the flight "appeared to have prevented something very serious from occurring," Kinton said.

The FBI's Kim McAllister confirmed that one man was in FBI custody for "interference with a flight crew," but had not been arrested.

A spokeswoman for Britain's Foreign Office, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said, "We are seeking normal consular access as we would with any U.K. citizen."

C-4 is a military plastic explosive. Its main ingredient is RDX, which is also used in fireworks. The whitish, puttylike substance can be easily molded by hand, and can be detonated if burned.

The explosive was used in the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, killing 17 U.S. sailors and wounding 39.
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