U.S. officials say a Qatari diplomat whose remark caused a bomb scare on a commercial flight over the United States was on his way to visit an imprisoned al-Qaida terrorist.
The officials say the diplomat, Mohammed Al-Madadi, was going to a prison in the western state of Colorado to visit Ali Al-Marri, a Qatari citizen serving an eight-year jail term for conspiring to support terrorism.
Madadi has been released from U.S. custody and will not face charges after being restrained Wednesday by U.S. air marshals on a flight from Washington to Denver, Colorado. Officials said he is expected to leave quickly for Qatar, which has been a key U. S. ally and hosts a large U. S. military base.
Officials say that after smoking in the rest room, he said he smelled like smoke because he was trying to light his shoe, a reference to so-called shoebomber Richard Reid who tried to detonate explosives on a flight in 2001.
The flight landed safely in Denver Wednesday.
Smoking is prohibited on all U.S. passenger flights.
Qatar's ambassador to the United States, Ali Bin Fahad Al-Hajri, says Madadi was traveling on official business and was not engaged in any threatening activity.
A senior U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity says Madadi will be leaving quickly for Qatar.
In an unrelated incident, several flights were delayed at Los Angeles International Airport Thursday after a passenger left a screening checkpoint before having a bag fully examined.
U.S. officials say operations stopped for more than an hour at three airport terminals while authorities found the passenger and re-screened the bag. Regular operations later resumed.
U.S. airports have been on heightened alert since a Nigerian man allegedly tried to set off a bomb in his underwear on a U.S.-bound plane in December. In 2001, al-Qaida-linked terrorist Richard Reid tried to blow up an airliner from France to the United States using explosives hidden in his shoes.