Passengers taken off a flight to Dubai from New York
Passengers taken off a flight to Dubai from New York said they didn’t know at the time that someone on board had been arrested on suspicion of trying to blow up a car bomb in Times Square in New York.
“Honestly, I was worried,” said Saudi resident Samir Al- Ammari, who was returning from a business trip to the US on Emirates’ flight EK202, which landed seven hours late, at 2.45am on Wednesday in Dubai.
He described how the aircraft was turned back to the terminal as it taxied for take-off at New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport on May 3. All passengers left the plane to undergo security checks, along with their luggage.
“Too many police cars were coming and going,” Al-Ammari said.
Al-Ammari and other passengers said they saw the suspect, Faisal Shahzad, and two other men under the custody of police officers as they re-entered the terminal building. They didn’t realize what had happened until they saw ticker headlines on CNN at the JFK terminal.
An American passenger who declined to be identified said he saw three or four police officers enter the aircraft and detain the three men, who were sitting in economy class. The men looked calm as they were taken away, he said.
Agents from the Department of Homeland Security arrested Shahzad at JFK as he attempted to fly to Dubai, said US Attorney General Eric Holder. Shahzad admitted his role in the plot, Holder said yesterday at a press conference in Washington.
A US citizen of Pakistani origins, Shahzad was charged with five counts, including attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and receiving “bomb-making training” in the Waziristan region of Pakistan, after driving a bomb-laden Nissan Pathfinder into Times Square.
Shahzad faces as long as life in prison if convicted of the mass destruction weapon charge or acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
Myra Page-Msibi, a US citizen on her way to Ghana via Dubai, said U.S. airport security handled the operation professionally. No one panicked, she said.
Passengers were asked to identify their carry-on luggage before exiting the aircraft and were given no information by the plane’s crew, Page-Msibi said.
“They were very organized, very discreet,” she said. “The entire terminal was evacuated before we were taken from the plane. They carried out a thorough check of the bags we had on board as well as checked-on luggage and it took more than six hours for us to get out.”