Man arrested after US forces flight to divert

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MONTREAL (AP) — Canadian authorities identified Monday a man arrested on an Aeromexico flight from Paris to Mexico that was forced to divert to Montreal after U.S. authorities refused to let the plane use U.S. airspace.

Abdirahman Ali Gaal was arrested Sunday at Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, said Robert Gervais, an Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada spokesman. He was taken off and arrested under an outstanding warrant.

Gervais said details of the arrest would be made public at Gaal’s detention review hearing on Wednesday.

The Canada Border Services Agency confirmed Monday the passenger was on a U.S. no-fly list and said the man was known to them.

Other passengers on Aeromexico Flight 006 from Charles De Gaulle Airport to Mexico City were re-screened and allowed to re-board the flight, said Lauren Gaches, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. The plane arrived in Mexico City about 3:30 a.m. EDT (0730GMT) Monday.

Gaches gave no further details. As a matter of policy, the TSA does not confirm or deny whether a person appears on a government watch list.

Passengers coming off the plane told The Associated Press that six Canadian police officers had boarded in Montreal, handcuffed the man and led him off the aircraft. They said the man did not resist.

“He was calm as if he knew what was going to happen,” said Mauricio Oliver, a 36-year-old Mexican passenger. “They handcuffed him and they took him.”

Oliver said a flight attendant told him the man was from Somalia, but other passengers gave conflicting information about his nationality.

Mexican Sen. Javier Castellon said he was seated two rows behind the passenger who was arrested. He said the police approached a bearded man seated in seat 23h, who gave a wry smile and allowed himself to be handcuffed without resistance.

“Some people started to cry. There was a little bit of panic,” Castellon said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But the whole police operation lasted only a minute.”

He said the police searched for the man’s carry-on luggage. Then, all the passengers were told to disembark so their luggage could be checked. He said passengers waited another two hours at the terminal before they re-boarded the plane and left for Mexico City.

A spokesman for Canada Border Services, Dominque McNeely, said there was no incident on the aircraft and that law-enforcement officials boarded the plane around 2:30 p.m. local time Sunday and took the suspect into custody.

“The flight landed and we had excellent cooperation with everyone involved,” he said.

McNeely said the man was being detained in Montreal and a detention hearing would be held in the next 48 hours.

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police official said officers assisted Canada Border Services.

Aeromexico offices at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport would not comment on the diverted Paris-Mexico City flight, referring all questions to headquarters in Mexico, where officials did not respond to questions for comment.

The Paris Airport Authority did not immediately comment Monday on the flight or what passport control measures had been carried out on the passenger at Charles de Gaulle before the flight left.


Associated Press writers Douglass K. Daniel in Washington, Rob Gillies in Toronto and Olga R. Rodriguez and Alexander Olson in Mexico City contributed to this report.