How the Imams Terrorized an Airliner
The Washington Times has an extensive report on the incident last week where imams returning from a conference in Minneapolis were removed from a US Airways flight and subsequently banned from the airline. It is entitled “How the imams terrorized an airliner.”
Muslim religious leaders removed from a Minneapolis flight last week exhibited behavior associated with a security probe by terrorists and were not merely engaged in prayers, according to witnesses, police reports and aviation security officials.
Aren’t the police reports just a compilation of the accounts of witnesses, including security officials?
Witnesses said three of the imams were praying loudly in the concourse and repeatedly shouted “Allah” when passengers were called for boarding US Airways Flight 300 to Phoenix. “I was suspicious by the way they were praying very loud,” the gate agent told the Minneapolis Police Department.
Well, they are imams. Praying out loud is pretty much their job description, no?
Passengers and flight attendants told law-enforcement officials the imams switched from their assigned seats to a pattern associated with the September 11 terrorist attacks and also found in probes of U.S. security since the attacks — two in the front row first-class, two in the middle of the plane on the exit aisle and two in the rear of the cabin. “That would alarm me,” said a federal air marshal who asked to remain anonymous. “They now control all of the entry and exit routes to the plane.” A pilot from another airline said: “That behavior has been identified as a terrorist probe in the airline industry.”
Finally, a legitimate red flag. ( Note to WaTi editors: Use the classic inverse pyramid organizational structure until you teach your reporters to write coherent essays. This will help emphasize the material that’s actually important.)
This is followed by a few paragraphs wherein the usual suspects yammer about racial profiling and so forth. Let’s skip those, shall we?
According to witnesses, police reports and aviation security officials, the imams displayed other suspicious behavior. Three of the men asked for seat-belt extenders, although two flight attendants told police the men were not oversized. One flight attendant told police she “found this unsettling, as crew knew about the six [passengers] on board and where they were sitting.” Rather than attach the extensions, the men placed the straps and buckles on the cabin floor, the flight attendant said.
This is indeed odd behavior. Some explanation as to how seatbelt extenders might be used to hijack an airliner might be useful at this stage but it was not forthcoming.
[Update: Greg Lang explains, “This is one heck of a weapon that has been overlooked. Basically the ‘heavy’ head of this is very heavy with both the latch and the belt adjuster lock thing. In a weapon sense it’s a lot like a padlock on a chain or in prison a canned item in a sock. A solid blow to the head can disable and the strap can be used to choke or restrain. I was astounded that these were [allowed for use as] carry on items.” via PowerLine and Hyscience]
The imams said they were not discussing politics and only spoke in English, but witnesses told law enforcement that the men spoke in Arabic and English, criticizing the war in Iraq and President Bush, and talking about al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
Something like 70 percent of the American public would be banned from flying using this test.
The imams who claimed two first-class seats said their tickets were upgraded. The gate agent told police that when the imams asked to be upgraded, they were told no such seats were available. Nevertheless, the two men were seated in first class when removed.
This could have innocent explanations, to be sure, but combined by their seating pattern happening to coincide with a classic terrorist pattern, let’s call it another red flag. Still, unless these are particularly cheap or poorly financed terrorists, one would think they’d have just gone ahead and sprung for the two first class seats outright rather than risking being denied the upgrade and/or calling attention to themselves.
A flight attendant said one of the men made two trips to the rear of the plane to talk to the imam during boarding, and again when the flight was delayed because of their behavior. Aviation officials, including air marshals and pilots, said these actions alone would not warrant a second look, but the combination is suspicious.
“That’s like shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. You just can’t do that anymore,” said Robert MacLean, a former air marshal. “They should have been denied boarding and been investigated,” Mr. MacLean said. “It looks like they are trying to create public sympathy or maybe setting someone up for a lawsuit.”
The pilot with another airline who talked to The Washington Times on condition of anonymity, said he would have made the same call as the US Airways pilot. “If any group of passengers is commingling in the terminal and didn’t sit in their assigned seats or with each other, I would stop everything and investigate until they could provide me with a reason they did not sit in their assigned seats.”
It could simply be that these fellows don’t fly very often. One presumes flight attendants told them to sit down in their proper seats and they refused?
Michelle Malkin discusses the case on O’Reilly (video).
Ed Driscoll wonders why the imams’ suspicious behavior is being so underreported in the Minneapolis press.