Did Passengers Target Four People Removed From Plane For Looking Muslim?

Passengers removed from plane right before takeoff

The deadly attacks in Paris, supposedly perpetrated by ISIS and followed by threats against U.S. cities, has put everyone on edge. Some have noticed an uptick in allegations of suspicious activity against Muslims, such as what occurred on a plane bound for Chicago from Baltimore Tuesday morning. Four passengers were removed from the flight for reasons as yet unclear.

Of the four people detained, three are still being interviewed and one was promptly released. No criminal charges have been filed. All four appeared to be in their early 30s, all of apparent Middle Eastern descent, and one of them apparently a young mother.

According to Reuters, the passengers were removed from the Spirit Airlines plane after a passenger told a flight attendant that one of them was “engaged in suspicious activity on board.” That suspicious activity: the woman was allegedly seen viewing what the passenger believed was an ISIS video.

Officials haven’t come forward to say whether the video was indeed one made by Islamic State. They also haven’t specified whether the passengers were deplaned because of a terrorist threat.

WJLA reporter Suzanne Kennedy was on the plane at the time and watched as all four passengers were removed. She said the suspicion was sparked when the woman got up just before takeoff and moved to the back of the plane with a small child.

This incident occurred while the plane was taxiing to the runway for its planned 6 a.m. departure, which it ultimately missed. Responding to the concern, the flight crew decided to return to the gate “out of an abundance of caution,” the Baltimore Sun added. WJLA added that the crew wasn’t comfortable with “several passengers” on board.

David Rocca was also on board the plane at the time, which he said was about half-full. According to the Chicago Tribune, he and fellow passengers were told that security officials were on their way and to sit tight. Shortly after, three passengers (two men and one woman) were removed from the plane first, taking their carry-on bags with them. Then officials returned to remove the fourth person.

“They quietly stood up, removed their bags and followed the two officers off the plane,” Rocca said.

In another account, one person was removed from the plane initially, and then three more were called out on the loudspeaker and removed from the plane next.

After the suspicious passengers were removed, the other passengers were deplaned for a security check by the TSA, and the flight was cleared to take off around 8:45 a.m.; it arrived behind schedule at about 10 a.m. Rocca said he was one of the several passengers who left the flight because they had connecting flights in Chicago the delay would cause them to miss.

Now, officials are tasked with figuring out if the supposedly suspicious passengers were up to something or were the subject of a misunderstanding. Authorities are looking into what exactly raised a red flag on the flight, but initial security checks of the passengers’ baggage turned up nothing suspicious.

One of the men has been released without charges and the rest are still being interviewed.

Of course, if all prove to be innocent, the possibility arises that they were removed from the plane because they appeared to Muslim.

Maryland Transportation Authority Police 1st Sgt Jonathan Green would only say, “We have to get to the bottom of what happened.”

For some people, “what happened” may be an incident of targeting those who appear to be Muslims or of Middle Eastern descent, the Independent noted. Ibrahim Cooper, the spokesman for the country’s Council on Islamic-American-Islamic Relations, said he’s noticed more people of supposed Middle-Eastern descent being targeted.

“Unfortunately, I think we’re going to see more and more of this. I don’t think it’s going to stop until we get push-back from elected officials and I am not seeing a lot of that.”

[Photo by Scott Olson / Getty Images]