Moroccan Parliament Members Held in Ore.
The Associated Press
Sunday, February 1, 2004; 2:25 PM
PORTLAND, Ore. - Seven delegates from the Moroccan parliament were detained at Portland International Airport for several hours in what appeared to be a mix-up involving language barriers.
The group, which was visiting the country as part of a goodwill tour, departed Saturday night after the FBI searched and interviewed them.
The visitors were about to board a 7 a.m. flight when one of the members, Abdellah Abbassi, left his carry-on bag behind while he got coffee, said Andrew Coose of the Transportation Security Administration.
The other six boarded the flight before he returned; in the meantime, someone reported the unattended bag.
Authorities refused to allow Abbassi to board, and the pilot ordered the other members of the delegation off the flight along with their luggage, said Coose, the TSA's deputy security director in Portland.
Authorities who searched their bags became alarmed when they found documents written in Arabic with 911 written on them, Coose said. The delegation could not speak English to explain the documents, he said.
It turned out that the group's host in Dallas, a previous stop, had given them instructions to call 911 if they got into trouble, but it was mistaken for a reference to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Coose called the incident "absolutely unfortunate."
© 2004 The Associated Press