‘Dry run’ terror plot discovered on US-bound flight to Amsterdam


Pictures of the two suspected terrorists, from ABC News.

Two Michigan men were detained in Amsterdam after arriving from Chicago and charged with “preparation of a terrorist attack.” Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al Soofi and Hezam al Murisi raised eyebrows when officials found a knife, a box cutter, and a cell phone taped to a Pepto Bismol bottle in their checked luggage. From the AP:

Another U.S. law enforcement official who also spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive security matters said federal air marshals were on board the flight from Chicago to Amsterdam.

The law enforcement official said Al Soofi was questioned as he went through security in Birmingham, Ala., on his way to Chicago. He told the Transportation Security Administration authorities he was carrying a lot of cash, the official said. Screeners found $7,000 on him, but he was not breaking any law by carrying that much money.

Al Soofi was supposed to fly from Chicago to Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia, and then on to Amsterdam, the official said. But when he got to Chicago, he changed his travel plans to take a direct flight from Chicago to Amsterdam. Al Murisi also changed his travel plans in Chicago to take a direct flight to Amsterdam, raising suspicion among U.S. officials.

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  • BraddS says:

    And again for all you out there who don’t read at the 8th grade comprehension level that the AP writes for, the main intel giveaway in the story is that THE MEN BOTH CHANGED THEIR FLIGHT PLANS IN CHICAGO “raising suspicion among U.S. officials”.

  • kp says:

    This looks like multiple different kinds test for an attack which seems rather odd as you are more likely to get caught. Are the planners short of money? People?

    Quote: “check of his luggage found a cell phone taped to a Pepto-Bismol bottle, three cell phones taped together, several watches taped together, a box cutter and three large knives.”

    The cellphone/bottle is clearly a dummy for a remote controlled bomb using a liquid (or solid that looks like a liquid in a bottle) that can be detonated over a city (by phone call) or over the ocean (using a preset alarm on cell or watch). Suicide bomber who isn’t carrying the bomb with him is an interesting idea.

    For a real bomb they would have to make sure the bomb sniffers can’t detect any of the explosives (sealed in a bottle with a detonator on the outside?).

    Quote: Airport security screeners in Birmingham, Alabama first stopped al Soofi and referred him to additional screening because of what officials said was his “bulky clothing.”

    So, it’s not just the flight change (and the luggage — see below).

    This could be a little gold mine for security folks with a new threat that we now know to look for. Plus the history and connectivity of the two captured guys and their communications.

    If they’re running tests then they need to be communicating the results to someone or they’re “loners” planning the attack. But previous AQAP attacks had someone build the bomb for the attacker as poorly home built bombs are a weakness for AQ lone wolves. But it might be in this case we’ve taken two suicide bombers out of service.

    Quote: The men were identified as Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al Soofi, of Detroit, MI, and Hezem al Murisi, the officials said. A neighbor of al Soofi told ABC News he is from Yemen.

    Another Yemeni apparently. So part of the AQAP still trying to attack aircraft?

    Are AQAP using US persons in the US to try to avoid NSA intercepts with one end point being a US resident or US citizen?

    Where the box cutters/knife part of another test (on the return trip?). Perhaps combined with the bulky clothes? Why take them in checked luggage otherwise?

    Not sure why they’ed try so many things in one item of luggage (that just make things more obvious to a screener). But clearly they weren’t detected before the flight started or they would have been pulled in the US. Same with the multiple knives.

    Quote: “Once in Chicago, officials say they learned al Soofi checked his luggage on a flight to Washington’s Dulles airport for connections on flights to Dubai and then Yemen, even though he did not board the flight himself.”

    Checking to see if they can fly bombs without a person? Or just a mistake? Clearly some intention to go to Yemen.

    The switcheroo at check in: one checks in the “bomb luggage” but other guy flies. This sounds very similar to the Christmas bomber with the captured “bomber” being more of a “mule” along with a facilitator. This is also not something that is

    Clearly some of the security procedures are working. It’s not just the last minute change.

    Quote: “al Soofi was found to be carrying $7,000 in cash”

    Funding for AQAP or to meet someone in Amsterdam or on to Yemen? Cash to make movement and overnight stays less traceable? Cash for other flight tickets?

    Perhaps the result will be limits on the size of liquids in checked baggage? And perhaps partitioning of electronics and liquids in checked luggage.

    BTW, on my last visit to a Homeland Security office screening required me to give up all my electronics including my wristwatch for X-ray screening. Clearly HS (and the intel services) already know about wristwatch detonators.

  • kp says:

    This Time article has a better timeline.


    They also had multiple cellphones and watches. Gifts? Or a supply of IED timers?

    The official says he couldn’t recall dry runs in any of the scores of cases he’s worked on.

    So he hasn’t heard of 9/11 or read the report?

    A few more details here (are they US resident or not?) in this AP report in Time


    Apparently neither are on an terrorist watch lists


  • blert says:

    Obviously, a complete work-up on these two is required.
    Advance men are key players in any attack.
    The re-vectoring makes anyone think that they were warned off by a traitor within our security establishment.
    Alternately, they not only re-vectored but contacted the rest of the cell to cancel phase II — what ever that might be.
    Amsterdam must have special significance for them. Perhaps they thought the Dutch would be sleeping at the switch — that they would have no troubles.

  • kp says:

    Though it may be obvious to others it only just struck me that multiple taped together phones could be a IED design: one as a timer/detonator the others holding the main charge.

    Same with the watches: one as a timer detonator the others holding the main charge. AQ has used wristwatch detonator/timers before.

    But if it was a dry run why do all of the IED designs together. If security spots one and do a fingertip search then you have three potential bomb-like devices to explain. One you might be able to explain away but three especially the phone taped the bottle (an old Yemni tradition, eh?). That’s just very odd. Either unlucky or dumb.

    The knives and box cutters are another very odd addition to this mix. And the money. DO they not have the resources for multiple flights? In which case why flight two guys together? What was in the other removed luggage from the direct flight.

    Blort: I don’t buy the “traitor” CT. That’s a huge stretch. There are many simpler reasons for them changing flight . Though post-checkin is rather odd. Did they talk to someone else? We’re they planning a meet up in Chicago before flying out? If they were suspicious of something then they’d change the flight and *spilt up*.

    Amsterdam is a main European hub so it may not be anything more than that. It has had a reputation for lax security previously but this was *inbound* to Amsterdam not outbound so they’d already *beaten* inbound (US) security.

    I agree looking at the background, travel, immigration and comms of these two guys is something I’m sure all the intelligence agencies (in the US and Europe) are doing right now to see what other connections they have and where they’ve been in the last 5 years.

  • kp says:

    AP source: Unlikely that 2 men plotting terror.

    The article also has more details on where the men are from. It also indicates that the items were discovered during a question and checked baggage screen at Birminham, AL (the first screening point). The men appear unrelated but the guy rescheduled his flight after he started it.


    Quote: The U.S. does not expect to charge the men, a law enforcement official said. The two men arrested in Amsterdam – both traveling to Yemen – did not know each other and were not traveling together, a U.S. government official said.

    What are the odds that they are now on terrorist watch lists i?

    The 9th anniversary of 9/11 is just two weeks away.

  • kp says:

    And probably the final post. Following on from the previous post.

    They were both rebooked on a different flight by United because of a gate change (missed connection?).

    The checked luggage was already heading direct to Sa’na, Yemen was loaded and then pulled from the Washington, DC aircraft. I suspect it was inspected for a second time at that point and it looked like a mock bomb. Hence the request to detain them in Amsterdam. I presume both of them because both had appeared on the other flight.

    Like the writer of this blog the phone taped to the bottle is still very, very odd.


    Clearly TSA is paying attention.

  • Sumit says:

    How long before the leads are traced to Islamabad, countdown 10, 9, 8 ,,,,,,,,

  • blert says:

    For anyone who dismisses traitors:
    ’nuff said.
    And there are reasons to suspect treason WRT 911.
    The 911 Commission ultimately exposed that NORAD was running an exercise on 911 which featured muslim terrorists hyjacking civilian aircraft.
    It is reasonable to assume that the missing control tower recordings evidence confusion as reality intruded upon the exercise.
    The Commission also discovered that the attack was rescheduled so as to magically merge with the exercise.
    The knowledge of the exercise was restricted. Obviously, the FBI and NORAD were in the know days in advance.
    IF you’re a well prepared stealth jihadist, the very first thing that you would do is penetrate the opposition’s intelligence circles.
    In prior centuries these advance operations were the norm for jihad. ( vs Iraq, vs Persia, vs India, etc. )
    For another example, look at the Soviet-Ukraine war of absorption. Deep political penetration led to a walk-over. Subsequently, the Reds committed mass murder: genocide.


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