In Amsterdam, two men headed from the United States to Yemen were detained after security staff discovered suspicious items in one of the men’s checked luggage.
The story began when security screeners at the airport in Birmingham, Ala., discovered watches, cellphones and a bottle of Pepto-Bismol strangely taped together in a suitcase belonging to 48-year-old Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al Soofi, a U.S. permanent resident. After determining the items posed no threat, al Soofi was allowed to catch his flight from Birmingham to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, from which he planned to connect onward to Washington-Dulles, and then overseas.
When al Soofi missed his connection at O’Hare, he was rebooked on a United Airlines flight to Amsterdam. His bag, meanwhile, was sent unaccompanied to Dulles, where it was loaded aboard the United plane to Dubai that al Soofi originally intended to catch.
There are rules banning unaccompanied suitcases on planes going overseas, however (a stricture going back to the Lockerbie catastrophe in 1988), and the Dubai-bound jet was forced to return to the gate. When al Soofi’s suitcase was offloaded and rescreened, authorities became worried and alerted Dutch officials, who arrested al Soofi upon his arrival in Amsterdam.