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US Says Moroccan Plane Diverted in Security Scare Was Transporting Man Reported Missing - 2004-02-20

U.S. authorities say a Moroccan airliner that was diverted from Casablanca and returned to the United States was carrying a man who had been reported missing.

Officials say that, after leaving New York, the pilot changed course and landed in Bangor, Maine, late Thursday after the man, Zubair Ghias, made an in-flight phone call to his wife in the midwestern city of Chicago. She had reported his disappearance to police Monday, when he failed to return home or report to work at an investment bank.

A private investigator for the family said Mr. Ghias told his wife in the phone call he had been kidnapped by agents of the al-Qaida terrorist network.

A spokesman for the FBI said agents interviewed him after removing him from the plane.

Aviation officials said earlier the flight was diverted because one of the passengers was considered a "security risk."

U.S. authorities allowed the Royal Air Maroc flight to take off again for Casablanca after searching the plane and screening the other passengers and crew.