DETROIT — Federal agents arrested a suspicious traveler with an altered Saudi Arabian passport at Detroit Metro Airport over the weekend after discovering a pressure cooker in his luggage.
According to a criminal complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court, the passenger, Hussain Al Khawahir arrived Friday at the Detroit airport from Saudi Arabia via Amersterdam. He had a visa and a Saudi Arabian passport and told officers in the baggage control area that he would be visiting his nephew at the University of Toledo, the complaint said.
In the baggage area, two customs officers interviewed the passenger and noticed a page had been removed from the man’s passport, the complaint said.
The man said he did not know how the page was removed and stated that the passport was locked in a box that only he, his wife and three minor children had access to in his home, the complaint said. His hometown was not listed in court documents.
While at the airport, customs and border officials also examined his luggage and found a pressure cooker inside. When questioned about it, the man initially said that he brought the pressure cooker for his nephew because pressure cookers are not sold in Saudi Arabia, the complaint said. The man then changed his story and admitted his nephew had purchased a pressure cooker in America before, but it “was cheap” and broke after the first use.
Pressure cookers were used in last month’s Boston marathon bombings.
Then a U.S. Customs and Border Protection enforcement officer read Khawahir his Miranda rights.
The man acknowledged that he understood those rights, both verbally and in writing at 4:25 p.m. Friday. A minute later, he invoked his right to remain silent, the complaint said.
On Monday afternoon, Kawahir was in federal court in Detroit, making his initial appearance on charges that he knowingly used an altered Saudi Arabian passport with missing pages, and made a materially false statement to a customs officer about the pressure cooker in his possession, all to gain entry into the United States.
Customs and Border Protection officials and the FBI declined comment.
On Christmas Day 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian student turned al Qaida operative, tried to blow up a Detroit-bound jetliner by concealing a bomb in his underwear. The bomb fizzled, a flight attendant put out the flames and passengers subdued him. He was sentenced Feb. 16, 2012, in U.S. District Court in Detroit to multiple life sentences.