MONTREAL - Canadian authorities yesterday identified a man arrested on an Aeromexico flight from Paris to Mexico that was forced to divert to Montreal after U.S. authorities refused to let the plane use U.S. airspace.
Abdirahman Ali Gaal was arrested Sunday at Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, said Robert Gervais, an Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada spokesman. He was taken off and arrested under an outstanding warrant.
Gervais said that details of the arrest would be made public at Gaal's detention review hearing tomorrow.
The Canada Border Services Agency confirmed yesterday that the passenger was on a U.S. no-fly list and said that the man was known to them.
Other passengers on Aeromexico Flight 006 from Charles De Gaulle Airport to Mexico City were re-screened and allowed to reboard the flight, said Lauren Gaches, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. The plane arrived in Mexico City about 3:30 a.m. yesterday.
Gaches gave no further details. As a matter of policy, the TSA does not confirm or deny whether a person appears on a government watch list.
Passengers coming off the plane told the Associated Press that six Canadian police officers had boarded in Montreal, handcuffed the man and led him off the aircraft. They said the man did not resist.
"He was calm as if he knew what was going to happen," said Mauricio Oliver, a 36-year-old Mexican passenger. "They handcuffed him and they took him."
Oliver said a flight attendant told him that the man was from Somalia, but other passengers gave conflicting information about his nationality.
Mexican Sen. Javier Castellon said that he was seated two rows behind the passenger who was arrested. He said that the police approached a bearded man seated in seat 23h, who gave a wry smile and allowed himself to be handcuffed without resistance.
"Some people started to cry. There was a little bit of panic," Castellon said in an interview with The Associated Press. "But the whole police operation lasted only a minute."
He said that the police searched for the man's carry-on luggage. Then, all the passengers were told to disembark so that their luggage could be checked. He said that passengers waited another two hours at the terminal before they reboarded the plane and left for Mexico City.