Several passengers aboard the Christmas Day flight to Detroit where a Nigerian man attempted to blow up the airplane say a second passenger was arrested after the foiled terrorist attack – and they suggested other men may have played roles as well.
Kurt Haskell of Newport, Mich., and his wife, Lori, claim they were aboard Flight 253 as they returned from a safari in Uganda, seated only a few rows behind suspected attacker Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a man who admitted to affiliation with the terrorist group al-Qaida. Haskell presented a boarding pass to Michigan Live to show that he had been a passenger on the plane.
Kurt and Lori Haskell, both U.S. attorneys with Haskell Law Firm in Taylor, Mich., told the newspaper that prior to the flight they were seated on the floor near the boarding gate in Amsterdam when Abdulmutallab approached the gate with another “Indian man” who was dressed in an expensive suit.
Kurt Haskell told Michigan Live the unidentified man in the suit approached ticket agents and asked them if Abdulmutallab could board without a passport, and he tried to convince them Abdulmutallab was a Sudanese refugee.
“The guy said, ‘He’s from Sudan and we do this all the time,'” Haskell told the newspaper.
But Dutch security officials claim Abdulmutallab was carrying a valid Nigerian passport and U.S. visa, according to CBS News.
Charlie Keepman of Oconomowoc, Wis., told the Detroit News that his daughter, Ricki, saw yet another man videotaping the flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, including the episode when Abdulmutallab purportedly attempted to set off explosive chemicals in his underwear.
Following the foiled terrorist attack, Haskell said passengers were corralled into a small, evacuated luggage claim area of an airport terminal. Then, he says, bomb-sniffing dogs were brought in.
“During this time period, all of the passengers had their carry-on bags with them,” he wrote in a posting on MLive.com. “When the bomb sniffing dogs arrived, one dog found something in a carry-on bag of a 30-ish Indian man.”
Haskell explained that the second “Indian” man was not the same well-dressed person who assisted Abdulmutallab in boarding the flight. He said this man wore orange clothing.
“The man in orange, who stood some 20ft away from me the entire time until he was taken away, was immediately taken away to be searched and interrogated in a nearby room,” Haskell explained. “At this time, he was not handcuffed. When he emerged from the room, he was then handcuffed and taken away.”
Immediately after the questioning, Haskell said an FBI agent approached the remaining passengers and, referring to the man in orange, said, “You all are being moved to another area because this area is not safe. I am sure many of you saw what just happened and are smart enough to read between the lines and figure it out.”
In his interview with MLive.com, Haskell said the agent’s statement made him and other passengers believe an explosive may have been detected in the man’s luggage. A second passenger, Daniel Huisinga of Fairview, Tenn., who was returning from an internship in Kenya, confirmed the account.
Haskell said authorities marched the remaining passengers out of the baggage claim area and into a long hallway.
“This entire time period and until we left customs, no person that wasn’t a law enforcement personnel or a passenger on our flight was allowed anywhere on our floor of the terminal (or possibly the entire terminal),” he wrote. “The FBI was so concerned during this time that we were not allowed to use the bathroom unless we went alone with an FBI agent. We were not allowed to eat or drink, or text or call anyone.”
Haskell said ever since the landing the FBI has insisted only one man was arrested for the airliner attack.
“However, several of my fellow passengers have come over the past few days, backed up my claim, and put pressure on FBI/Customs to tell the truth,” he wrote.
Huisinga told reporters he, too, saw a man taken away in handcuffs at the airport after a dog search.
Another passenger, Roey Rosenblith, told the Huffington Post officials arrested a man in a gray suit.
“The only thing that I recall happening is seeing an Indian guy off to the side, an older gentleman wearing a gray suit leaning against the wall. Suddenly there was a police officer next to him pulling his arms back and putting handcuffs on him,” he said. “The man didn’t struggle, the bags which seemed to be his were left there, and he and the police officer disappeared around the corner.”
Just today, the Detroit News reported a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman confirmed that officials had taken a second person into custody after the attempted bombing. But officials claim the handcuffed passenger was from a different flight, and the incident was not related.
Ron Smith, chief Customs and Border Protection officer in the Detroit office, told the newspaper, “There was a second person taken into custody, but it had nothing to do with Flight 253. They did see dogs, but again, it was a totally different incident.”
But Haskell stands by his story, claiming officials are “playing the American public for a fool.” He said their explanation would require the public to believe the following:
- FBI and Customs officials allowed passengers from a separate flight to co-mingle with the passengers of Flight 253 during a critical investigation. Haskell insists that no one – aside from law enforcement and Flight 253 passengers – was allowed in the area while they were being detained.
- Despite prohibiting passengers from drinking, eating, making calls and using the restrooms, FBI and Customs officials allowed people from other flights to “trample through the area and possibly contaminate evidence.”
- Haskell also added that no flights during that time allowed passengers to exit from the planes. The planes were held on the runway during the first hour of the detention period.
- “You have to believe that the man that stood 20 feet from me since we entered customs came from a mysterious plane that never landed, let its passengers off the plane and let this man sneak into our passenger group despite having extremely tight security at this time,” he added.
- He said the public would be required to believe FBI and Customs officials were “hauling mysterious passengers from other flights through the area we were being held to possibly contaminate evidence and allow discussions with suspects on Flight 253 or to possibly allow the exchange of bombs, weapons or other devices between the mysterious passengers from other flights and those on flight 253.”
“Seriously, Mr. Ron Smith, how stupid do you think the American public is?” he wrote.
Haskell said he believes a more plausible story is that law enforcement officials “realized that they screwed up and don’t want to admit that they left Flight 253 passengers on a flight with a live bomb on the runway for 20 minutes” or that they “they left Flight 253 passengers in customs for one hour with a live bomb in a carry-on bag.”
He also suggests “the man in orange points to a greater involvement than the lone wolf theory that they have been promoting.”