Man on jet had explosive in sneakers, feds say
BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Preliminary analysis by the FBI showed the sneakers worn Saturday by a passenger on a trans-Atlantic flight from Paris to Miami contained "two functional improvised explosive devices," federal authorities said Sunday.
U.S. authorities Sunday charged the passenger, Richard C. Reid, 28, with interfering with the performance of the duties of flight crew members by assault or intimidation.
If convicted, Reid would face up to 20 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. He was scheduled to appear Monday at 9:30 a.m. in U.S. District Court here.
Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration announced Sunday all U.S. airports are required to add random shoe checks of passengers to the already established practice of random baggage checks. The FAA warned airlines earlier this month to be on the lookout for people trying to smuggle weapons or bomb-making components in their shoes.
Reid, a convert to Islam, also has been known as Abdel Raheem and Tariq Raja, according to officials.
According to an affidavit filed with a federal complaint against Reid, a flight attendant smelled what she thought was a burnt match after American Airlines Flight 63 had been aloft for about 90 minutes. The Boeing 767 left Charles de Gaulle International Airport between 11 a.m. and noon, Paris time.
After she determined the smell came from Reid, who was seated in Row 29 in the coach section, the attendant confronted him and saw him put a match into his mouth, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan.
Flight attendant Hermis Moutardier alerted the captain over the intercom, according to the news release. Reid also lit another match and appeared to be trying to set fire to the inner tongue of one sneaker, the release said.
Moutardier noticed a wire protruding from the sneaker and attempted to grab the shoe, the news release said. Reid, who is about 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs more than 200 pounds, pushed her into the bulkhead, the release reported.
She tried again, and Reid pushed her to the floor; Moutardier yelled for help and ran for water. A second flight attendant, Cristina Jones, joined the struggle and was bitten on the thumb, according to an affidavit from the FBI.
That's when passengers jumped in.
"I heard a female voice screaming, 'I need some help!'" said French journalist Thierry Dugeon. He and about five other male passengers subdued Reid, using belts and plastic cords to attach him to his seat, Dugeon said.
Reid was "unbelievably strong," said passenger Kwame James, a 6-foot-8 professional basketball player in France who joined the fracas.
When the man was being restrained, James recalled, Reid uttered in English: "You'll see. You'll all see."
Reid was subdued in 30 to 40 seconds, said passenger Nicholas Green. Few people on the plane knew what was happening, and some thought Reid was having a panic attack, he said.
The in-air melee prompted the pilots to divert the flight to Logan International Airport in Boston. The jetliner, carrying 185 passengers, 12 crew members and escorted by two F-15 fighter jets, landed safely at 12:50 p.m. EST.
Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, combat aircraft have been carrying out nonstop patrols over the skies of Washington, New York and the Northeast corridor.
When the plane landed and authorities boarded the plane, according to James, the suspect said: "It will happen the way it's supposed to happen. The way it was written to happen."
The American Airlines jet was moved to an isolated, inactive runway at Logan while a bomb squad and FBI agents boarded the plane. Officials took Reid into custody, questioned passengers and took away Reid's sneakers for additional tests, the FBI said.
'Exceptionally serious charge'
Reid faces serious consequences stemming from the fracas, Sullivan said. "Obviously, the alleged intimidation or assault of a flight crew causing interference with their duties is, by itself, an exceptionally serious charge," he said.
Officials also praised the actions of passengers and crew.
"The willingness of the flight attendants and passengers to get involved with this incident helped avert a potentially dangerous situation," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Charles Prouty.
Federal investigators, meanwhile, were analyzing about 10 ounces of explosive material, a government official told CNN.
They were trying to determine whether the material could be Semtex, PETN or RDX, all malleable versions of C-4, a plastic explosive terrorists have used effectively in the past, the official said.
Investigators also pondered Reid's motives as well as his names.
Although his British passport identified him as Richard Reid, French authorities said he had been known by two other names -- Abdel Raheem and Tariq Raja.
French officials said they learned from American investigators that Reid adopted the name of Raheem after converting to Islam. French border police said he was known as Raja, born August 12, 1973, in Sri Lanka.
A senior Bush administration official said investigators determined the man is a native of Sri Lanka and a British citizen.
Government sources briefed by the FBI said the suspect has a British mother and a Jamaican father, meaning his British passport is likely legitimate, officials said.
According to sources, Reid attempted Friday to board an American Airlines Paris-to-Miami flight, but authorities at De Gaulle Airport would not let him aboard when he did not answer all their questions.
Reid further raised suspicions because he checked no luggage on the overseas flight, although he did have a carry-on bag, which was later searched, the sources said.
Authorities turned him over to French National Police, who determined he held a genuine British passport, sources said.
Since the Friday flight to Miami had already left, the airline re-issued the man a ticket for Flight 63, scheduled to leave the next day. The plane left a few minutes late, slowed by a strike at the airport.
-- CNN correspondents Kelly Wallace, Bill Delaney, Jeff Levine, Major Garrett and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.
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