Official: Unlikely two men were plotting terror attack

Screeners found Items like cell phones and watches taped to empty bottles.
Screeners found Items like cell phones and watches taped to empty bottles.
al-Soofi & al-Murisi
al-Soofi & al-Murisi

Posted by: Mark Bullock - bio | email

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WSFA/AP) - A U.S. government official says the FBI's investigation of two men detained in Amsterdam is finding that it's unlikely they were on a test run for a future terror attack, even as Dutch authorities continued to hold the pair on suspicion of conspiring to commit a terrorist act.

The U.S. official says the two men arrested in Amsterdam did not know each other and were not traveling together.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation, says both men missed flights to Dulles International Airport from Chicago, and United Airlines then booked them on the same flight to Amsterdam. The men were sitting near each other on the flight.

Another U.S. official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, says that when Customs officials discovered one passenger was not on the flight from Dulles to Dubai, they called the plane back to the gate and removed his luggage. It was then they discovered suspicious items in his bag.


The FBI is still investigating the alleged terrorist plot with ties to Alabama. Two men of middle-eastern descent were arrested Monday for allegedly carrying out a test-run of a planned terrorist attack. One of the men apparently started his trip in Birmingham.

Ahmed Mohammed Asser al-Soofi took off Sunday from the Birmingham airport on a flight bound for Chicago. He first attracted the attention of security screeners for wearing bulky clothing. Later the TSA discovered what they called "mock bombs" in his luggage -- things like watches and cell phones taped to medicine and shampoo bottles.

Because the items were not actual bombs and did not pose a threat, al-Soofi was allowed to travel on to Chicago.

"He violated no law," said Alabama Homeland Security Director Jim Walker, who praised Birmingham's security screeners for bringing attention to the matter.

When al-Soofi arrived in Chicago, he allegedly met up with another Yemeni national, Hazem Abdullah Thabi al-Murisi. The two boarded a flight to Amsterdam, where they were arrested at the request of U.S. authorities.

The men's true motives are still unclear, but Dutch police have charged them with "preparing a terrorist attack."

Authorities say al-Soofi was not originally planning to fly to Amsterdam. His ticket was for a flight from Chicago to Washington, D.C. His luggage was loaded onto that flight, but was removed before take-off when United Airlines officials realized al-Soofi was not on board the plane.

WSFA 12 News contacted officials with the Alabama Homeland Security Department for comment. They told us they are still reviewing the case, but assured that there was never any threat to the state of Alabama.

Alabama's homeland security director, Jim Walker, says Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al Soofi had been living in Tuscaloosa for about three months and working at a convenience store.

©2010 WSFA. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associate Press contributed to this story.