False alarm: Airport reopens

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Woman suspected of carrying explosives released

By Teresa Moore/The Ironton Tribune

WAYNE COUNTY, W.Va.— Flights in and out of Tri-State Airport are back to normal today, one day after a Pakistani woman was suspected of having possible explosives in her carry-on items.

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The liquids in question were apparently not explosives, but precautions were taken anyway and the woman was released without charges.

West Virginia State Police Special Operations Capt. J.C. Chambers said a 28-year-old woman who was to board a flight from Huntington to Charlotte, N.C. and eventually to Detroit, Mich., was detained Thursday morning after two containers of liquid in her carry-on bag were suspected of having an explosive residue on them.

Tri-State Airport Manager Larry Salyers said just after 9 a.m., an airport security guard was checking the woman’s carry-on bag when four containers of liquid were found and determined to be on a list of prohibited items.

When the containers were sent through an electronic device known as a sniffer, two plastic containers tested positive for suspicious chemicals.

“I didn’t see one of the liquids; one of the bottles looked like it might have been a water bottle,” Salyers said.

A K-9 unit was brought in and the dog also detected a suspicious chemical. West Virginia National Guard and West Virginia State Police explosives teams were notified and the two containers were isolated and taken by a robot to a remote location of the airport for final determination as to what the identity of chemical residue.

The woman was later taken by F.B.I. agents from the airport to another location for continued interrogation.

“The woman didn’t act suspicious; she acted calmly,” Salyers said. “She had an immediate reason as to why such material might be on the outside of what she was carrying.”

The airport was evacuated at approximately noon and all flights suspended.

About 50 passengers were affected by the flight delays. Salyers said it was the first time in the history of the airport that flights had been delayed because of suspected explosives at that airport.

Salyers said at first he thought the whole incident was a drill of some kind, one he had not been told about.

“I thought the test went so well to start with it but then it went far enough I started thinking it could be the real thing,” he said.

The investigation eventually involved a number of emergency services and law enforcement agencies, among them, the state police, airport police, the national guard, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

The woman is said to have lived for several years in Detroit before coming to Huntington approximately a year ago. She had purchased her one-way ticket Wednesday.

The woman’s mother told the Associated Press that her daughter, who is four months pregnant and lives in Barboursville, W.Va., was targeted because of her nationality and Islamic headcover.

“It was not only a false alarm, it was racial discrimination because there was nothing,” Mian Qayyum said, refusing to name her daughter.

“She just had water to drink because she is pregnant and she had a face wash that had a drop of bleach on it,” Qayyum said from her home in Jackson.

Chambers refused to say if the woman’s Huntington residence was searched for possible explosives.