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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Arab Arrested After Cockpit Invasion Thwarted

by Peter Needham -

An apparently crazed passenger holding a Yemeni passport rushed down the aisle and tried to break into the locked cockpit of an American Airlines flight from Chicago bound for San Francisco.

The man, identified as Rageh Ahmed Mohammed Al-Murisi, 28, was brought down when crewmembers and passengers – including a retired Secret Service agent – acted together.

He was charged in US District Court in San Francisco with interfering with a flight crew and is due to appear in court with an Arabic interpreter, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Almost immediately, relatives of the accused in the US came forward, telling media that he wasn’t a terrorist, he was a “nice guy” who spoke limited English.

Authorities said flight safety was not compromised. Passengers reported Al-Murisi was mumbling and then yelling “God is great” in Arabic – not something to put passengers’ minds at ease in the current climate.

Cockpit doors on US passenger aircraft have been fortified since the deadly terrorist attacks of 11 September 2011, in which hijackers armed with boxcutter knives gained control of four planes.

The latest incident comes at a time of heightened security, with concerns that terrorists might try to attack the US in retaliation for the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Yemen is home to renegade Yemeni American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a fanatical Islamist believed to have masterminded two attempts to bomb US-bound aircraft since 2009.

These are twitchy times in US skies. At the weekend, a man tried to open a door during a Continental Airlines flight from Houston to Chicago. The flight landed safely in St Louis, where the man was arrested and charged.

And last Friday, security fears saw three imams, including an American Muslim, evicted from a US domestic flight (on the ground). Ironically, they had been heading for a conference on Islamophobia.

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