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US, Netherlands Investigate Possible Airline Terror Plot

A security agent stands in the departure hall of the Amsterdam Schiphol airport after two Yemenis arrested at the Airport off a flight from the US were being held on suspicion of conspiracy to prepare a terrorist act, 31 Aug 2010

Dutch authorities say two Yemeni men arrested after taking a flight from the United States to Amsterdam are suspected of conspiring to commit terrorism. But U.S. media reports quote an U.S. official as saying there is no evidence of a terrorist link in the case.

The men were taken into custody early Monday morning after arriving on a United Airlines flight from Chicago. They have been identified as Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al-Soofi and Hezam al-Murisi.

Some law enforcement sources said the men might have been on a so-called practice mission for an attack. But at least one U.S. official, who did not want to be named, said this was not the case and that the men did not know each other.

Speaking to reporters at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, Theo D'Anjou of the public prosecutor's office said the two men of Yemeni descent were taken into custody after their United Airlines flight from Chicago landed in the Netherlands at 9:15 in the morning local time.

"They are being held in custody on suspicion of a conspiracy to a terrorist criminal act," said D'Anjou. "In a few days, it will be made public if they are charged. There's consultation with U.S. authorities about the progress of the investigation."

D'Anjou confirmed that the men were on their way from the United States to Yemen, when they were apprehended.

Authorities at an airport in the southern U.S. city of Birmingham, Alabama, where the two men began their journey, found a cell phone taped to a bottle of antacid medication and watches in al-Soofi's luggage, along with $7,000 in cash.

Al-Soofi and al-Murisi were supposed to fly from Chicago to Washington, D.C, then on to Amsterdam. But U.S. authorities became suspicious when the two men changed their plans to fly directly to the Dutch capital.

Reports say al-Soofi lives in the midwestern U.S. city of Detroit, Michigan.

The White House says neither of the men was on the "no-fly" terror watch list.

D'Anjou said the rest of the luggage on board the aircraft was searched and nothing suspicious was found. The bag in question remains in the United States. For now, the two suspects are in custody in the Netherlands.