WASHINGTON – The Immigration and Naturalization Service has told agents to inspect baggage belonging to Yemeni citizens for large sums of money, thermos bottles and night-vision goggles, a government official said Tuesday.
Agents were instructed to thoroughly search all baggage belonging to Yemenis entering and leaving the United States, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity
A recent raid on an apartment where a number of Yemenis lived in the Northeast netted thermos bottles outfitted with wires and batteries, the official said.
An INS spokesman declined to say whether Yemenis were being subjected to more thorough searches, though he confirmed such searches do take place.
"We do at times conduct these heightened levels of inspection activities when provided intelligence or investigative information either that we've developed ourselves or that has provided to us," said Russ Bergeron, the spokesman.
Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, a Yemeni who was roommate of suspected hijacking ringleader Mohammed Atta, couldn't join the Sept. 11 attacks because his requests for a visa to enter the United States was rejected four times.
In February, the FBI distributed photos of 16 people the bureau suspected of planning a terrorist attack. Fawaz Yahya al-Rabeei, a 22-year-old citizen of Yemen, was believed to be the leader; most of the others were from Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
It was in a Yemen port in 2000 that two suicide bombers in a dinghy rammed the USS Cole, killing 17 sailors.
Yemenis carrying diplomatic passports were exempt from the searches, according to CBS, which first reported the baggage searches.