Published January 13, 2015
Who is the Shoe Bomb suspect?
Four days after a mysterious tall man was prevented from igniting a sneaker full of plastic explosive on a flight from Paris to Miami, authorities in the U.S. and Europe are still trying to sort out exactly who he is.
In court papers, he's Richard C. Reid, the name listed on the British passport the suspected would-be bomber used to get on an American Airlines flight from the French capital.
But the man, now under suicide watch in a Plymouth, Mass., jail, may also be Sri Lankan Tariq Raja. Or he could be Abdel Rahim, also a Sri Lankan. And until the identity of the shoe bomber is cleared up, authorities might not figure out what he was trying to do, if he was doing it at anyone's behest, and what his connection might be to the Sept. 11 terror attacks that turned passenger planes into flying bombs.
French border police are investigating how the man could have slipped past security checks despite heightened security after Sept. 11.
In Washington, officials said information received by U.S. investigators suggested the suspect's father was British, his mother Jamaican and that he was born in Sri Lanka but was a naturalized British citizen. When he was questioned by police before boarding, the suspect said he was heading to Antigua to visit family.
In London, Scotland Yard said Monday they believed the suspect was a British national. Consul General George Fergusson of the British consulate in Boston said the passport appears to be valid and indicates that Reid was born somewhere in the United Kingdom. On Tuesday, Sri Lanka's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said there was no evidence the man was a Sri Lankan.
"Investigations by law enforcement officials, both in the U.S. and France, have established that he was not a Sri Lankan national," a statement from the ministry said.
Citing information from U.S. sources, French authorities identified the man on Sunday as a Sri Lankan who went by two names, Tariq Raja and Abdel Rahim. On Monday, however, an official with France's border police said the man was being considered a British national since he had no documents proving Sri Lankan citizenship.
Passengers subdued the man Saturday after he attacked a flight attendant who tried to stop him from lighting the explosives in his sneakers, according to the FBI. The American Airlines jetliner, with 183 passengers and 14 crew members, landed safely at Boston's Logan airport.
A spokesman for the U.S. Marshal's service said Reid is expected to undergo a psychological evaluation sometime this week. He is due back in U.S. District Court Friday for a bail hearing.
Meanwhile, airports around Europe tightened security after the weekend incident, with some requiring passengers to send their shoes through X-ray machines.
French officials met to review security at airports in France, particularly at Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris, where the flight originated. Government officials were discussing airport security and the specific duties handled by airline companies, airport officials and security services, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
A separate inquiry is being conducted by the anti-terrorist police and France's domestic intelligence agency.
Paris airports beefed up security starting Sunday, increasing the number of patrolling officers and bomb-sniffing dogs at check-in counters and passport control stations, the Interior Ministry said.
Switzerland's Zurich airport said it would tighten controls beginning Christmas Day and require all passengers on U.S. airlines to remove their shoes to be X-rayed along with carry-on luggage.
In Austria, a spokeswoman for Vienna's international airport said that ``shoe controls'' would be made more thorough. Dagmar Lang, the spokeswoman, said passengers' shoes were already ``watched'' and occasionally ordered removed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.