Tunnel Threat Detainees To Be Deported

19 October 2005: Federal officials are moving forward with the deportation of four men who were detained on immigration charges as part of an investigation into a potential terrorism threat in a Baltimore highway tunnel, a federal official said Wednesday.

Mark Bastan, acting special agent in charge at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Baltimore, said the four already were going to be deported and had broken the law by failing to show up for deportation proceedings before they were detained on Tuesday.

“Technically, they were fugitives,” Bastan said. “Their deportations are just being acted on.”

The four were identified as Ahmad Al Momani, 58, Mohamed Ahmed Mohamady Ismail, 30, Mohamed Mohamed-Abdelhamed, 38, and Suied Mohamad-Ahamad, 25. Ahmad Al Momani is from Jordan, and the other men are from Egypt, Bastan said.

Authorities received a tip about Ismail from a source who is in custody in the Netherlands. Bastan said all four men had previous orders for deportation for separate reasons. “It was not something they were involved in together,” he said.

The men were to be held at a detention center in Wicomico County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Deportation procedures could take up to about a month, Bastan said.

Meanwhile, the FBI planned to continue the investigation that led to the closure of one of two highway tunnels under Baltimore’s harbor for nearly two hours Tuesday and partially shut the other because of an unconfirmed threat to detonate vehicles full of explosives inside them.

The Baltimore Harbor Tunnel was closed and the Fort McHenry Tunnel was reduced to one lane of traffic in each direction. The closures began about 11:30 a.m. and officers began reopening the tubes about 1:15 p.m.

The Baltimore FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force was heading the probe into the threat. “The task force will continuing following up leads and make a decision about how much further to develop it,” said Barry Maddox, a spokesman with the FBI’s Baltimore field office.

One federal law enforcement official said the decision to close the tunnel was linked to raids carried out on Tuesday in Baltimore. Authorities were seeking several men who the source of the threat information said would drive vehicles filled with explosives through a Baltimore-area tunnel. The threat information was shared last week, but the official said local authorities felt they needed to shut down the tunnels around the time of the raids on the chance that, assuming the threat was real, the raids would force the bombers’ hand.

The official, who spoke on condition he not be named because the investigation is ongoing, also denied that the source failed a lie detector test. The FBI said Tuesday it had been unable to corroborate the threat, calling it of undetermined credibility.

At Safa’s Pizza in Dundalk, manager Ahmed KHADER, an Egyptian native, said FBI agents and other authorities raided the business Tuesday and took into custody another Egyptian man, who was not an employee. “He came to visit us - bad luck,” Khader said.

Didi’s Pizzeria in Essex, where authorities also searched Tuesday, was closed.

Matt Schussler, a part-owner of Little Lou’s Seafood and Subs, two doors down from Didi’s, said the owners of Didi’s were Egyptian and that they had abruptly closed up shop on Saturday. He said a half-dozen FBI agents arrived Tuesday and questioned him about what the Didi’s employees looked like and what kind of vehicles they drove.

“It was just odd because these guys happened to stop coming into work two or three days ahead of time,” Schussler said. “I don’t know if it was a coincidence.”