Seven people escorted off flight, questioned after man made passengers nervous, no arrests

Monday, October 1st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Armed guards escorted a group of seven people off a plane at Los Angeles International Airport and questioned them after one man's actions made other passengers nervous.

The FBI released them shortly afterward and no arrests were made, officials said. The travelers did not return to the flight.

The America West flight from Los Angeles to Phoenix was preparing to taxi from the gate Saturday when passengers noticed a man, whom they believed to be Middle Eastern, stand up and pass his travel itinerary to an older man, said Nancy Castles, airport spokeswoman.

He then asked a flight attendant if he could get off the airplane to retrieve other documents, said airport spokeswoman Nancy Castles.

``Where was he going to get these documents?'' Castles said. ``That's why it was considered suspicious behavior.''

Flight attendants alerted the captain, who called in airport police. Officers boarded and removed several pieces of luggage and escorted off two men, a woman and four children.

The older man, Nejatullah Sherzad, told the Los Angeles Times that he and his family are refugees from Afghanistan and have been living in India for several years. He said they did not know the man who stood up, but his family and the man were part of a United Nations refugee group.

Castles said the other man had a Sudanese passport and had been living in the United States for several years. His name was not released.

America West officials said the captain erred on the side of caution.

``Since Sept. 11, people have been on edge,'' said Jim Sabourin, vice president of corporate communications for the airline. ``We did what we felt was the right thing to do, based on the fact that a number of passengers were uncomfortable and nervous about what they saw.''