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Suspect's Motives Unclear in Failed Airline Bombing - 2001-12-23


A passenger aboard a transatlantic flight who allegedly tried to ignite explosives hidden in his shoe has been identified by the French police as a Sri Lankan national who was traveling on a British passport. Britain's Scotland Yard said it believes the suspect is a British national.

One day after American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami was diverted to Boston, much remains unclear about the motivations and connections of the suspect, identified by both French and U.S. officials as a Sri Lankan muslim.

Several passengers aboard the flight said they had noticed a brooding, distant look about the suspect even before the tall young man was caught attempting to light what appeared to be a fuse protruding from a shoe.

The incident began when a female flight attendant noticed the smell of sulfur and challenged the suspect, who allegedly bit her on the hand. Several other passengers joined in the struggle that followed. Ultimately, they managed to strap the suspect to a seat. Two doctors administered sedatives from the plane's medical kit.

The flight was diverted to Boston's Logan Airport, escorted by two F-15 jets.

The suspect is now in FBI custody. U.S. authorities say the shoe contained some form of improvised explosives that could have damaged the Boeing 767 had they detonated during the flight.

So far, there are no reports of a link between the suspect and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network. The suspect, who did not check any luggage on the flight, had reportedly been turned away from boarding another international flight one day earlier.

French officials say they are reviewing airport security measures in the wake of the incident.

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