A Yemeni man held on suspicion of terrorist activity was released by Amsterdam authorities earlier this month.
After some confusion, Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al Soofi, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama (formerly of Michigan), was found to have no terrorist connections, but a hefty unpaid tax bill in the amount of nearly $14,000.
Here is a summary of his tax debt, according to TheDetroit News:
- On January 2, 2008, the Internal Revenue Service named al-Soofi in a lien for $10,298, filed with the Monroe County Register of Deeds. The taxes are related to income from 2002, 2003, and 2004.
- The state of Michigan filed a lien in the amount of $1,258 against al-Soofi on December 15, 2009, with the Wayne County Register of Deeds.
- Another state lien was filed on the same day for $2,158.
Al-Soofi moved from Michigan to Alabama a year ago to look for work. The recent dilemma started when he and Hezam al Murisi of Memphis, Tennessee – both men are of Yemeni descent – headed for Chicago on their first leg of a trip to Yemen. Airport security in Birmingham, Alabama found that al-Soofi was carrying $7,000 in cash and some odd items: three cell phones taped together, a cell phone taped to a Pepto-Bismol bottle, watches taped together, a box cutter, and three large knives, all in checked baggage. The items aroused suspicion, but, because there were no explosives, he was allowed to take them to Chicago.
From Chicago, the two men were scheduled to fly to Washington, D.C., but changed their plans and flew directly to Amsterdam. From there, they were to travel to Yemen. Authorities questioned the change of flight plans when, at the last minute, the men bypassed Washington, D.C.
Security officials feared the men were conducting a terror dry run. Further investigation revealed that the change of plans occurred because the two men missed their connecting flight to Washington, D.C. In the confusion, al-Soofi’s luggage was held back in the United States, though the men were allowed to travel to the Netherlands.
Upon arrival, Amsterdam authorities detained the two men for additional questioning. When no terror connection was found, the men were released.
An NPR blog reported that there was no reason to believe the two men knew each other. But Frontpage.comsaid Detroit law enforcement sources confirmed that they were friends.
Part of the problem, said reporters at TheDetroit News and Frontpage.com, was that the men were traveling to Yemen, which is considered one of al Qaida’s bases, and the place where the failed Christmas Day bombing plot was hatched.
Afterward, Yemen’s Washington embassy chided the U.S. media in a press release for overreacting.