Thursday, December 31, 2009

Court freed Somali plane suspect

In November, a Somali man tried to board a commercial plane in Mogadishu with chemicals and a syringe, similar to those used by the would-be Christmas bomber from Nigeria.  Now we learn that a Somali court acquitted and released the man.  From AP:
A Somali court acquitted and released a suspect who tried to board a plane in Mogadishu in November with chemicals and a syringe — materials similar to those used in the attempted attack against a Detroit-bound airliner.

The news that Somali officials freed the suspect will hamper efforts by U.S. investigators to learn if the two attempted attacks were linked. Terrorism analysts had said the arrest in Somalia could prove highly valuable to the Detroit investigation.

Somali Police Commissioner Gen. Ali Hassan Loyan said the court released the suspect on Dec. 12 after ruling that officials hadn't demonstrated he intended to commit a crime. The man, whose name has not been released, said the chemicals were to process camera film.
CNN has a slightly different version of the story:
Somali authorities said Thursday that a man arrested last month trying to board a commercial airliner in the country's capital was not carrying chemicals that could have caused an explosion, as an African Union official said.

Somali Force Commissioner Gen. Ali Mohamed Hassan Loyan said that airport security forces took into custody a man carrying "a suspicious chemical substance and a liquid readied in a syringe" on November 6 at Aden Abdulle Osman Mogadishu International Airport.

However, a government explosives expert examined the chemical and liquid and determined that they did not constitute "bomb-making material," Loyan said in a written statement.

The man was still charged with possessing a suspicious substance and attempting to sneak it onto a commercial flight, but a court found no conclusive evidence against him, Loyan said.

"As a result, the man was released from jail," he said. The man had said the chemicals were for X-rays, Loyan said.
X-rays, camera film what's the difference?  Maybe there was an error in translation.  Or maybe the suspect couldn't keep his story straight.  Were the chemicals tested to determine if the smuggler was telling the truth or were they returned to him with his wallet and watch as they waved him out the door?

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