SAN FRANCISCO — A Yemen native who disrupted a San Francisco-bound flight was portrayed by prosecutors Tuesday as a dangerous and erratic passenger who tried to barge into the cockpit twice, did not carry any luggage and yelled “God is great” in Arabic.
Rageh Al-Murisi, 28, faces one count of interfering with flight crew members and attendants as pilots on American Airlines Flight 1561 were preparing to land in San Francisco on Sunday, one week after the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of the U.S. military that has raised fears of a possible retaliation.
“He attempted to enter the cockpit right before a critical part of the flight,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Elise Becker said in prosecution arguments to withhold bail for Al-Murisi.
In the court affidavit filed Monday, air marshal Paul Howard said after being told the cockpit door wasn’t the restroom, Al-Murisi made eye contact with a crew member, lowered his shoulder and rammed the door. The crew member told Howard he then got between Al-Murisi and the door, but Al-Murisi kept yelling and pushing forward in an attempt to open it, according to the affidavit.
Court documents say Al-Murisi repeatedly yelled “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” and tried twice to open the cockpit door before being subdued by a crew member and several passengers, including a former Secret Service agent and retired San Mateo police officer Larry Wright. The flight landed safely at San Francisco International Airport, but not without frightening passengers who became alarmed as he yelled unintelligibly and tried to rush the cockpit.
Becker said that the same Arabic phrase was uttered by the hijackers of Flight 93 as they took over the plane that eventually went down in Shanksville, Pa., on Sept. 11, 2001, and by a Nigerian man who allegedly tried to detonate explosives in his underwear on a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas 2009.
Swiss ‘JetMan’ completes Grand Canyon flight
HUALAPAI INDIAN RESERVATION, Ariz. — Swiss adventurer Yves Rossy has completed a flight over the Grand Canyon in his custom-built jet suit — his first such flight in the U.S.
Rossy performed the stunt Saturday before a small group of team members. He was airborne for about eight minutes, soaring 200 feet above the canyon rim on the Hualapai Reservation. Rossy flew up to 190 mph before deploying his parachute and landing on the canyon floor.
The 51-year-old has rocketed over the English Channel and Swiss Alps in his wing suit.
Tripoli sites bombed, rebels claim Misrata gains
TRIPOLI, Libya — In a one-two punch against Moammar Gadhafi’s forces, NATO warplanes struck a command center in the capital, Tripoli, on Tuesday after pounding regime targets around the besieged port of Misrata. Rebels hoped the stepped-up attacks could help extend some of their biggest advances to date, including a major outward push from Misrata.
The opposition also said it made gains along a long-deadlocked front near the eastern town of Ajdabiya.
Gadhafi, Libya’s autocratic ruler since 1969, has not been seen in public since one of his sons was killed in a NATO airstrike April 30. A NATO official, Italian Brig. Gen. Claudio Gabellini, said the alliance had no evidence to indicate whether Gadhafi was alive or dead.
The rebels’ military spokesman, Col. Ahmed Bani, said opposition forces had pushed Gadhafi’s troops out of rocket range on the west side of Misrata and dislodged them from the airport after two days of battles, raising the prospect that the siege could be broken.
Bani said rebels from Misrata and Zlitan, 35 miles west, had joined up to fight in close-range combat that rendered the regime forces’ long-range rockets useless. Speaking to The Associated Press in the rebel headquarters city of Benghazi, Bani said Gadhafi’s brigades were pushed about 10 miles back from Misrata’s airport.
In another boost to the opposition, the U.S. State Department said the first load of nonlethal American military aid for the rebels landed Tuesday at the port in their headquarters city, Benghazi.