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Shoe Bomb Suspect Appears in Court - 2001-12-24


The man who tried to set off explosives in his shoes during a transatlantic flight from Paris made his first court appearance in Boston, Massachusetts Monday.

A federal judge ordered Richard Reid, 28, to remain in jail pending another court appearance on Friday.

Dressed in an orange prison uniform, Mr. Reid responded with a "yes" and a nod of his head when asked if he understood the charge against him and whether he wanted a lawyer to represent him.

Richard Reid was arrested Saturday and charged with interfering with flight attendants after witnesses said he tried to detonate explosives in his shoes during a flight from Paris to Miami. The plane was diverted to Boston where Mr. Reid was taken into custody.

Professional basketball player Kwame James was among the passengers and flight attendants who subdued Mr. Reid. "I got there when about two guys and a flight attendant were struggling to contain him," he said on NBC television. "So I proceeded to join the struggle and we just held him down and the doctor got involved and she gave him a shot [injection] to sedate him. Then we tied him up and we tied him up pretty good and I had to sit with him the rest of the flight."

Questions remain about the suspect's identity. Richard Reid is the name listed on his British passport, but French authorities identified him as a Sri Lankan named Tariq Raja. He was prevented from trying to board another plane the day before in Paris. He carried no luggage and had bought a one-way ticket.

The diverted plane was a Boeing 767 with 183 passengers and 14 crew aboard. Some experts say that while the explosives would have caused damage aboard the plane, they doubt the amount was great enough to bring the plane down.

Larry Johnson, a former counter terrorism official with the U.S. State Department, told NBC, "the good news is that if it is true that it is 10 ounces [of explosive], five ounces per shoe, it probably would have blown his leg off, it could have killed someone next to him. It would have injured some people immediately around him, but it probably would not have brought the plane down. The good news here is that this guy was not well trained. You do not detonate plastic explosives by setting it on fire. Thank God he was poorly trained," Mr. Johns said.

Federal aviation officials have now ordered stepped-up security in the wake of the incident and passengers are now being asked to take off their shoes for examination before boarding planes.

But aviation consultant Michael Boyd, a critic of the current airline security system, told CBS television that many more changes are needed. "What we have to recognize is that things like C-4 [plastic explosive] is very hard to find and X-rays don't do it and the contraptions that Congress wants to buy to screen luggage don't do it either," he said. "It is a risk we have to take and it means a multi-layered approach to security that we are a long way from right now."

The incident has also caught the attention of members of Congress. "We have come a long way since September the 11 as far as safety," said Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama. "But everything is not perfect. That is why I have told people all along to be on alert. I continue to fly, but I am on alert."

Senator Shelby is the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee and he says authorities are now trying to determine if the suspect acted alone or was part of a terrorist group.

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