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Threat grounds flight to NYC

By Lisa Leff and Terry Collins
Associated Press / August 20, 2010

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SAN FRANCISCO — A hijack threat halted an American Airlines flight just before takeoff yesterday, leaving the New York-bound jet sitting on the tarmac for several hours while it was searched and while passengers were removed for extra scrutiny.

The FBI later determined that the telephoned threat was not credible, but after the 9/11 attacks and a series of airline scares in the past year, the incident still rattled nerves as it played out live on national television.

Police were investigating who called in the hijacking threat and what the motivation might have been.

Though passengers described the scene aboard the Boeing 767 headed to John F. Kennedy International Airport as calm, witnesses said a man and a woman sitting in the back row were taken off in handcuffs. But they were quickly released and allowed to rebook their flights.

The couple confirmed that they were the ones who had been removed from the plane but declined to identify themselves.

A fellow passenger suggested the couple may have been targeted because of their appearance. Michael Anderson, 20, saw the couple later at the American Airlines ticket counter and observed them carrying passports from Pakistan. “It definitely seems like it was racial profiling, based on what they look like physically and the fact they are Pakistani,’’ said Anderson.

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