FBI: No evidence that terrorism suspect traveled to Las Vegas
SEATTLE – Seven Jordanians were arrested at the Canadian border on what officials Monday called routine illegal immigration charges – not terrorist suspicions, as originally announced. And the FBI said there is no credible evidence that anyone suspected of terrorism has traveled to Las Vegas in recent weeks.
Abdelmajed Dahoumane is suspected of being an accomplice of Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian who was charged with trying to smuggle nitroglycerin, other explosives and timing devices into Washington from Canada on Dec. 14. American and Canadian authorities are still looking for Dahoumane.
Three men, two women and two children were taken into custody by U.S. officials Sunday afternoon near the checkpoint at Blaine, Wash., about 100 miles north of Seattle. The crossing was shut down for more than two hours.
One of the women, who was with a toddler and was legally in Canada, and a man in the process of becoming a Canadian citizen, left a car at a duty-free shop on the Canadian side and walked across the border in a nearby park, authorities said.
U.S. Border officials picked them up and then found four other people who were waiting to meet them – the woman’s husband and a couple and their toddler, said Deputy Chief Gene Davis of the U.S. Border Patrol at Blaine.
”It’s real common. When we catch people coming out of the park, we immediately begin looking around the area to see if anyone’s waiting to meet them,” said Davis, noting that his agency caught 2,500 people from 70 countries that way last year.
Hours after the arrests, Constable Archie Alafriz of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had reported that at least one of the men who was arrested ”had an affiliation with a known terrorist group.”
But the FBI said Monday that authorities had misinterpreted a criminal record in Philadelphia that said the man once made ”terroristic threats,” a phrase that can be applied to several kinds of violence.
”It looks like, in reviewing that record, it is in connection with assault or domestic violence,” FBI agent Roberta Burroughs said. ”We have no reason to believe at this time that these people have any ties to terrorist organizations.”
The woman who had been in Canada legally with her child, and the man who accompanied her were arrested for crossing the border illegally, Davis said.
The woman and two men who were already on the U.S. side had overstayed their visas, said Sharon Gavin, spokeswoman for the western region of Immigration and Naturalization Service based in Laguna Niguel, Calif.
The INS will process the entire party to determine their status, Gavin said. Some then may be processed for deportation to Jordan, she said, though those who entered from Canada may simply be returned there.
It was unclear whether the child found in the car on the U.S. side of the border had been born in the United States or in Jordan, Davis said.
U.S. border crossings are on heightened security as officials gird against possible terrorist attacks this week.
Over the weekend, the FBI interviewed an airline’s ticket agents in Bellingham after a report that one agent sold a ticket to Dahoumane, who is wanted in connection with an alleged plot to smuggle explosives into Washington state from Canada.
A source told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that the man paid for a ticket from Bellingham to Seattle, with a connecting flight to Las Vegas. The flight was later canceled.
Five days after Ressam’s arrest, a Canadian woman and an Algerian man were arrested at a remote border crossing in Vermont. The woman, Lucia Garofalo, has been linked by federal prosecutors to what they described as a terrorist group operating in Europe and Algeria.