Thursday, December 31, 2009

Unanswered questions of flight 253

An American lawyer, who was on board Northwest Airlines flight 253, has revealed details which may suggest the bomber was aided by another man and may not even have had a passport. His story and others' accounts of what happened have raised serious questions as to what happened that day and whether security issues were overlooked, even after the failed attack.

Bomber had "no passport"

Kurt Haskel told Fox News that he was just "people watching" at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport when he saw an unusual couple. "We were playing cards by the boarding gate when I saw two men that looked odd to be together," Haskell said during FOX 2 News Morning. "One looked like a poor black teenager and one looked like a older wealthy Indian businessman," he said. Haskell then described how the Indian looking man approached the ticket agent and said, "this man has no passport and he needs to get on the plane." The ticket agent then told the man that without a passport he wouldn't be able to board, whereupon the businessman replied, "he's from Sudan we do this all the time." The two people were, according to Haskell's account, directed to an airline manager's office.

At the time Haskell thought little of the incident. "To me it was a non-event at the time ... until later," Haskell told the news station. It wasn't until events unfolded on flight 253 that the lawyer realised the significance of what he saw. The FBI did not seem to be pleased with Kurt Haskell when they conducted a follow-up interview later in Michigan, the American lawyer reported. They showed him close-up photographs of various people, including Abdulmutallab. "They kind of tried to trick me," Haskell explained to a radio station. The agents tried to pass off two photos of Abdulmutallab as different people. Haskell asked the agents if they were attempting to impeach his story and smear him.

The Indian man was not included in the photographs, Haskell says, and he asked them why he was not shown a full body shot of the suspect so that he might identify him properly. The FBI agents did not answer and were displeased with the question, he claims. He also asked the FBI agents if it would be more appropriate to bring the surveillance video from the Amsterdam airport instead of still photos. "I don't think they liked that comment from me," Haskell added. Meanwhile a Dutch military police spokesman told The Daily Mail, "At this moment we have no information on whether there was another guy. We are checking all clues and information we get." [NY Daily News / Telegraph]

The attack

Kurt Haskell was sitting with his wife Lori in row 27 on flight 253, a few rows from Abdulmutallab who was in row 19. It was "very chaotic and very scary" when the incident on the plane occurred, Haskell said. He said he did not hear a pop or bang, as described by other passengers, though he said there were shouts of "fire" and calls to bring water. Flames were licking up the side of the plane, a flight attendant was spraying a fire extinguisher and passengers were jumping on Abdulmutallab, Haskell said. The battle lasted just seconds. "He didn't fight back at all," he said. He said that Abdulmutallab was dragged down the aisle towards the first class area as the plane came into Detroit airport declaring an emergency. 

Another passenger described in detail what he experienced. Roey Rosenblith, the founder and director of Village Energy in Uganda, told KSDK TV in St Louis the whole incident happened very quickly but that many passengers were unaware as to what had unfolded until much later. "Just after they announced that we would be landing I heard two people yelling, screaming, then it grew to a muffled chorus of yells and cries, the words "Fire, there's a fire," drifted back to where I was sitting in economy window seat 38J," Rosenblith said. 

"Suddenly a female flight attendant, a middle-aged Asian woman with shoulder-length black hair, rushed past our aisle from the front with incredible speed, grabbed something from one of the overhead compartments in the back, and then ran back up the opposite aisle. Later I would find out she was grabbing a fire extinguisher. I was filled with an intense sense of trepidation, the instinct to run was overwhelming, but there was nowhere to run to in this metal tube filled with almost 300 people. All you could do was look around at your fellow travellers, who were doing just what you were doing; trying not to panic, looking around for some clue in the eyes and faces of other passengers if anyone knew what was happening."

After Abdulmutallab had been dragged away the screams and sounds of struggle subdued and a voice came over the intercom. "Everything is under control! Your federally trained flight attendants have the situation under control. We are now landing. The landing gear is down! Stay in your seats, we are getting ready to land."

Second man detained

After landing passengers remained in their seats for around 20 minutes, Haskell told Alex Jones on his radio show. This surprised him given the gravity of the situation. After vacating the aircraft people were also allowed to take their carry-on baggage. This also struck him as odd. In a holding area the lawyer said FBI agents and customs officials with sniffer dogs singled out a man and took him away. However there was no initial word from authorities of anyone other than Abdulmutallab having been detained.

Following this incident the FBI moved the passengers to another location. "You're being moved," the FBI told them, "it is not safe here. I'm sure you all saw what happened and can read between the lines and why you're being moved." Haskell said media appeared not to have reported this aspect of his story despite his having repeated it to "countless" news agencies.

Agents later showed Haskell a photograph of the man flagged by the bomb-sniffing dog and taken into custody in customs. "Isn't this the man who had the bomb in his carry-on bag that you arrested in customs who you refuse to admit exists?" Haskell asked the agents. "They really didn't like that comment from me and had no comment back to me but I said it sure looks like the man you refuse to admit exists," Haskell told Alex Jones on his weekly radio broadcast. 

Other witnesses have since come forward telling of a second man having been taken away. 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. Speaking during an interview on Monday with news channel MSNBC, Huisinga talked about seeing a man taken away at the airport while passengers were being detained. Huisinga shared Haskell's view that the passengers were moved because more explosives had possibly been discovered, adding that agents told the passengers that they could not use their cell phones or computers. "We were kind of left to draw our own conclusions," he said.

Kurt Haskell was circumspect and careful not to speculate during the interview with Alex Jones. He indicated he is only interested in the facts and does not want to endanger his version of events by speculating on motives. Jones, a radio host and documentary film maker who runs a website called was more forthright however. He inferred the events described may suggest a CIA plot of complicity. The radio host is well known for furthering conspiracy theories, including government complicity behind 9/11, flouride in the water supply, the establishment of world government through green politics amongst others.

Conflicting stories

The bankruptcy lawyer's account also seems a little incredulous at face value. Nigerian authorities say Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab left Lagos on a KLM flight to Amsterdam with a valid Nigerian passport - No. A3921640. Yet Haskell is adamant that what he heard and saw at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport it true. 

As regards the second man, authorities appear evasive. "It is unknown why the person was detained or whether the person will face any charges," a US Customs and Border Protection spokesman Ron Smith told The US Customs spokesman has since issued another statement saying the man detained was on another flight unrelated to flight 253 and that passengers from various flights went through customs processing in one centralised location. This also seems somewhat bizarre given the events on board flight 253. It would seem logical to isolate all those aboard the plane rather than mix them with other passengers. If not the case it would seem the security and investigative procedures following the incident were rather disorganised. 

Meanwhile the FBI still denies that a second person was detained in relation to the incident, raising suspicions as to whether the well-dressed Indian man is being protected by the authorities and for what reason. "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," FBI spokesman Bill Carter said. "But I'm not aware of anyone charged or arrested other than Abdulmutallab." 

Abdulmutallab, 23, described as a privately-educated son of one of Nigeria's most prominent bankers, managed to smuggle his bomb aboard the aircraft by placing a condom filled with the high explosive PETN inside the crotch area of his underpants. He attempted to detonate it using a syringe filled with a liquid chemical. The PETN powder caught fire but did not explode. He has been charged with attempting to destroy the Christmas Day Northwest Airlines Flight 253. 

Abdulmutallab has reportedly warned US investigators, "There are more just like me who will strike soon." This claim made international headlines on Wednesday and prompted a review of security measures at airports around the globe. Schiphol airport has already announced it is to utilize body-scanners each costing up to $100,000, to screen passengers on all flights. Meanwhile, a group calling itself al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP) is said to have claimed responsibility for the attempted suicide bombing on Northwest Airlines flight 253. Plans are now being drawn up between the US and Yemeni government to target possible terrorist targets on the Arabian Peninsula.

Questions remain

While allegations made by conspiracy theorists may be somewhat far-fetched, there are many unanswered questions. Government complicity aside, it has to be asked how a man apparently on a watch list managed to board two flights with explosives. How had he managed to retain a US visa? Was there a second man and why are authorities being evasive? If it is true that Abdulmutallab and the man seen by Haskell are the same person, and if the lawyer's account of events with regards the passport are also true, how and why was Abdulmutallab allowed on board flight 253? Given the risks posed by a secondary device, why were passengers forced to remain on the plane for 20 minutes after landing? And why, if the US custom's statement is true, were flight 253 passengers mixed with passengers from other flights?

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As Haskell said on an Alex Jones interview, the two accounts (his and the "official" story) of the passport situation do not have to be mutually exclusive.

At Schiphol, Haskill's version says that the two (the Indian man in a suit and the young black man) did not show a passport at the usual spot but they may well have shown a passport later in the manager's office, where they were directed to.

Why? Why show a passport at one place and not the other? Haskell, I believe, did not speculate. Who knows? Maybe the scanners at the regular passport check booth would have revealed something irregular so they didn't want to show it there and they subsequently only showed it ("flashed it") to the manager, thus avoiding the machines. Or maybe a bribe or complicity were involved with the superior? Who knows. The point is, the passport stories do not necessarily contradict each other. What they do prove, is that clearly further clarification is required.