A person was detained by customs at Detroit Metro Airport on Friday following Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s alleged attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253, according to a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
It is unknown why the person was detained or whether the person will face any charges, spokesman Ron Smith told MLive.com.
Bill Carter, a spokesman with the FBI in Washington, D.C., said in an interview Tuesday that Abdulmutallab was the only person arrested or charged in relation to Friday’s foiled attack.
The news about a person being taken into custody comes after two passengers aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 said they saw a second man being taken away in handcuffs on Christmas Day while they and others were waiting to be interviewed by FBI agents at the airport. Smith was unable to say whether that man was the person detained by customs officials.
Kurt Haskell, a Taylor, Mich., attorney who says he was seated a few rows behind suspected terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, told MLive.com on Saturday that he saw a second man taken into custody after search dogs appeared to find something in his carry-on bag.
Daniel Huisinga of Fairview, Tenn., who was returning from an internship in Kenya for the holidays, says he also saw a man being taken away in handcuffs at the airport after a dog search. A third person, Roey Rosenblith, told The Huffington Post on Sunday that he saw a man in a suit being placed into handcuffs and escorted out, as well.
Huisinga talked about seeing a man taken away at the airport during an interview Monday on MSNBC. He mentions it at about the 1:25 mark of the video below. The reporter appears to confuse Huisinga’s account with a man who was detained on a separate flight Sunday and deemed not to be a threat.
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In a phone interview Tuesday morning, Huisinga told MLive.com that search dogs were brought into Detroit Metro about an hour after the Flight 253 passengers entered the airport. While the dogs sniffed multiple bags, Huisinga said one dog sat down in front of a bag carried by a middle-aged man who was wearing a nice suit.
Haskell said he also saw a man being escorted out of the airport by agents after dogs searched the area where passengers were waiting to be questioned. In a subsequent interview with Fox News, Haskell clarified the man may not have been arrested, but he reiterated the person — who he described as being about 30 years old — was taken away in handcuffs.
Huisinga said the man with the suspicious bag was questioned by agents, who looked through his luggage. The agents left, then approached the man a second time before placing him in handcuffs and leading him away, said Huisinga, who estimates he was about 20 feet away from the scene.
Haskell, who also estimates he was about 15 to 20 feet away from the man he saw detained, told MLive.com on Saturday that the man was taken into a “back room” to be questioned. Huisinga said the man was questioned in a corner of the passenger waiting area.
U.S. Customs spokesman Smith said customs uses various search dogs that can sniff for a different kinds of materials, including explosives, drugs, food and currency. He would not elaborate on which types of dogs were being used to search at Detroit Metro on Friday.
No matter what was supposedly found in the unknown man’s bag, both Huisinga and Haskell said passengers were moved to another area of the airport just after he was detained.
“An FBI agent said to us, ‘You are being moved to another area because this area is not safe. Read between the lines. Some of you saw what just happened,’” Haskell said in a comment that appeared in a story on MLive.com.
In his Saturday interview with MLive.com, Haskell said that the agent’s comments made him and other passengers suspect that some sort of explosive may have been detected in the man’s luggage.
That was the same assumption made by Huisinga, who said agents told the passengers that they could not use their cell phones or computers. “We were kind of left to draw our own conclusions.”
Smith said the passengers may have been moved into a “sterile area” while they were waiting to be questioned by officials.
FBI spokesman Carter said he did not know whether search dogs detected suspicious material at Detroit Metro, or if passengers were moved to another area of the airport deemed to be “safer.”
“There’s a lot of stories out there, whether any of them are accurate or not, or they’re a little bit accurate and blown out of proportion,” Carter said. “But I’m not aware of anyone charged or arrested other than Abdulmutallab.”
Calls to the U.S. Department of Justice have not yet been returned.
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