Friday, August 12, 2011

Authorities search for motive in fake airport bomb - Travel - News -

updated 8/10/2011 5:03:05 PM ET
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The arrest of three African refugees after a fake bomb was found in one of their carry-on bags at Phoenix's airport has authorities asking if the group was testing airport security.

This booking photo released on Wednesday Aug. 10, 2011 by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, shows (from left to right) Asa Shani, Shullu Gorado and Luwiza Daman. The three African refugees who were arrested after a fake bomb was found in one of their carry-on bags at Phoenix's airport on Friday Aug. 5, 2011. (AP Photo / Maricopa County Sheriff)

Police haven't ruled out the possibility of terrorism but say they still don't know the motive behind the fake bomb. In a court document released to The Associated Press on Wednesday, one of the arresting officers wrote, "The suspicious package suggests subjects were testing airport security protocol."
Phoenix police Sgt. Steve Martos said Wednesday that the upcoming 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks raised police concern in relation to the incident.

The refugees are Luwiza Daman, a 51-year-old woman from Ethiopia who was living in Des Moines, Iowa; Shullu Gorado, a 25-year-old man from Eritrea; and Shani Asa, a 34-year-old also of Eritrea. Eritrea is a small country on the Red Sea that borders Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa.
Gorado and Asa were living at separate apartments in Phoenix, and it's unclear when they all arrived in the U.S.
Daman, Gorado and Asa all declined to speak to The Associated Press on Wednesday through a sheriff's spokesman, and it's unclear whether any of them yet have lawyers.

Daman had the suspicious item in her carry-on bag as she tried to get through security at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and board a plane to Des Moines on Friday, Martos said.
He said Transportation Security Administration workers alerted police. Soon after that, a bomb squad and hazardous materials crew arrived and found that the item wasn't explosive.
He described the item as an organic substance inside a container, with a cell phone taped to the outside of the container. He said the organic, paste-like substance could be some type of food but said that it hadn't been identified. He was unable to describe the container.
"Why would anybody want to take that onboard an airplane?" Martos asked. "We want to assure people that we're going to look at this matter that we're taking it seriously."
Martos said that Daman told investigators that Gorado, an acquaintance, gave her the item to be delivered to someone in Des Moines. Police tracked down Gorado, who told them that he got the item from Asa.
Martos said that Asa admitted to attaching the cell phone to the container, and that he had been asked to have the item delivered to Des Moines.
Police have not identified the Des Moines contact who was supposed to receive the item.
Because the item had a cell phone attached to it, police had to react with "an abundance of caution," said David Cid, the executive director of the Oklahoma City-based Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism who worked in counterterrorism at the FBI for 20 years.
Cell phones can be used to detonate bombs, either with alarms in the phone or with a phone call from another cell.
"It certainly raises red flags," Cid said. "One doesn't tape a cell phone to a container when you're going through airport security when you've got an ounce of sense."
Associated Press Writer Luke Meredith contributed to this report from Des Moines.



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