Breaking: Attempted terror attack on U.S. flight thwarted? Update: Misunderstanding?

All I’ve got so far is Twitter reports from CNN and NBC (via Breaking News) reporting that a guy tried to detonate explosives by lighting a fuse in his shoes on a flight from D.C. to Denver. Gabe Malor, who has his own source and who actually had this story posted before the news services did, has more details claiming that the alleged perp has a diplomatic passport from Qatar, but I haven’t seen that confirmed anywhere else.


Stand by for updates, needless to say.

Update: CNN now backtracking, saying all they’ve confirmed so far is an “airport disturbance.” If you’re wondering whether Reagan National Airport has the new full-body scanners that were rolled out after Abdulmutallab’s attempted attack, the answer apparently is affirmative.

Update: Your suspect is Mohammed al-Modadi.

Authorities say an explosive team is on the way to the airport, and that while the presence of explosives has not yet been confirmed, they believe it was an attempted “shoe bomb.”

The suspect was identified by authorities as a diplomat in the Qatar embassy in Washington, Mohammed al Modadi. The FBI said the man had full diplomat immunity as the 3rd secretary and vice-consul.

Fighter jets were scrambled to escort the plane in. If not for the air marshals on board who tackled him…

Update: NBC has a story up too but without much detail. Note this:

The latest incident comes a week after the United States announced new security measures to replace the mandatory screening of air travelers from 14 countries that had angered some allies when it was imposed after a failed bombing on Christmas Day.

The measures were designed to significantly reduce the number of passengers pulled aside for additional screening and will not be based on nationality or passport, but on characteristics pulled together by intelligence agencies.


Well, Qatar wasn’t among the 14 countries designated for special screening and in any case this flight originated from inside the U.S., not abroad.

Update: Maddow just asked a good question on MSNBC: Did this guy’s diplomatic credentials help get him past security at the airport?

Update: On MSNBC, Pete Williams says they haven’t found any explosives in his shoes yet and thinks it might be a huge misunderstanding. Supposedly al-Modadi got up to use the bathroom around 30 minutes before the flight landed; he was in there for awhile and when he came out an air marshal smelled smoke. When the marshal asked him what he was doing in the bathroom, al-Modadi supposedly said, “I was trying to light my shoes on fire.” In fact, he might have simply been having a cigarette and responding sarcastically, which I guess the marshal didn’t pick up on. Again, this is all from Williams. I’ll update when I see something contradictory. Incidentally, until a few minutes ago,’s own headline for this story was “NBC News: Airline bombing foiled.” Now it’s “NBC: Passenger subdued aboard United jet.”

Update: The story at has the details I just mentioned in the last update.


Update: Greta is also reporting that no explosives have been found and that the smoke in the bathroom might have been al-Modadi’s attempt to, ahem, “cover up another smell.”

Update: ABC has updated and they’re leaning towards the same explanation now as NBC. What we may be looking at here is the scariest smoke break in aviation history:

A US security official said, “it may have been a massive misunderstanding” and the diplomat’s statement may have been a “sarcastic” comment when he was confronted by two air marshals who had been told by flight attendants that smoke was coming from the lavatory.

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