American Reporter Staff
Los Angeles, Calif.
December 22, 2001
BOSTON, Dec. 22, 2001 -- American Airlines Paris-to-Miami Flight 63 narrowly avoided catastrophe today when a passenger attempted to light the fuse of a bomb hidden in the heels of his basketball sneakers but was stopped by an alert stewardess and then tackled and sedated by passengers aboard the transAtlantic flight.
A man initially identified as Richard C. Reid, apparently traveling on a false British passport issued three weeks ago in Belgium, struck a match to light a fuse that was sticking out from the heel of his shoes. The aromatic sulfur from the match caught the attention of a member of the flight crew, who immediately identified the passenger and asked what he was doing.
The stewardess then noted a wire sticking out of the man's shoe and when she grabbed at the fuse he became hostile and started to fight. After he was subdued by passengers and crew, two doctors armed with sedatives from the flight's medical kit, he bit one member of the flight crew and struck other passengers. None were seriously hurt.
The man, said to be 28 and about 6 feet 4 inches tall, was under arrest in Boston after the flight, under escort by U.S. fighter jets, was forced to land at Logan International Airport.
He was charged with "interference with a flight crew," police said. His sneakers were taken to FBI laboratories in Washington. Later reports identified him as Tariq Rajaof Sri Lanka; authorities said he was a Muslim with no known ties to terrorists.
Police aid the C-4 explosives hidden in both of his heels were capable of doing "extensive damage."
It is not clear from media reports at this time whether it was believed to be powerful enough to bring the plane down.
Some 185 passengers and 12 crew members aboard the flight were questioned when they landed in Boston at 12:55 EST today. All but Reid were released, although some were asked to remain an extra day in Boston in the event they were needed for further questioning.