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Eight arrested at New York airports

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Heightened security measures at major airports may have been responsible for thwarting another hijacking in New York on Thursday, one U.S. official told CNN.

At least eight people were arrested Thursday at John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, law enforcement sources said, including four who previously were challenged at one of the airports on Tuesday, the day terrorists commandeered four other planes.

The suspects were booked as passengers on flights from Kennedy or LaGuardia airports on Thursday, the sources said. At Kennedy, one suspect was removed from a plane and two others -- including a man with a phony pilot's license -- were taken into custody at a pilot's lounge.

Asked if this was seen as another hijacking attempt, one U.S. official said, "Certainly, this is being looked at -- that a hijacking was thwarted. There is concern in our office that this may have been another attempt."

The suspects were taken into custody for carrying fake documentation -- including the one man carrying the fake pilot's license -- and immigration issues, the sources said.

All had booked open-ended tickets, meaning there was no return date -- "raising a red flag" on a day of heightened airport security, one source said.

The eight were being questioned by FBI members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

The sources did not specify what immigration offenses may have been involved in the arrests.

Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports were all shut down late Thursday as part of a security groundstop. The temporary groundstop at the three airports was imposed around 5:30 p.m. Incoming flights were allowed to land, but takeoffs were halted.

A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration said there had been far fewer flights than normal before the three airports were shut down on Thursday.

The FAA announced that Washington's Reagan National Airport will remain closed "for the time being."

This decision was made "due to the airport's proximity to key federal installations in the Washington, D.C., area including the Pentagon," one of the targets of the hijackers.

Northwest Airlines grounded all its flights nationwide because "external information has come to Northwest's attention that indicates that it is not prudent to fly this evening." The airline is resuming flights Friday.

The arrest of the man posing as a pilot was announced earlier by New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik.

That man was stopped as he tried to clear security at JFK when he was found to be carrying false identification, Kerik said.

"He had identification indicating he was a pilot. He attempted to clear security. He was stopped. The identification he had was indeed false," Kerik said.


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