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NORAD Confirms F-15 Jets Escorted American Airlines Flight With Suspected Bomber on Board to Boston

Aired December 22, 2001 - 17:27   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: We are following an incredible breaking news story. An American Airlines plane inbound from Paris to Miami diverted to Boston because officials at Logan Airport say the man on board American Airlines Flight 63 was apparently trying to ignite explosives that were in his shoes.

There was a scuffle aboard the plane. The man was subdued by flight attendants and passengers. A number of flight attendants were injured in that incident. The plane was escorted by two F-15 fighter jets to Boston's Logan Airport, where the man was taken into custody by the FBI.

This was just about 1:00 Eastern time today. Logan officials saying the 185 passengers and 12 crew members safely taken off of the plane. The bomb squad then went on board. They found the shoes, which officials say did contain explosives. The shoes were taken to an isolated area, where officials say the explosives inside were disrupted.

Officials saying that the man in custody was carrying a British passport which identified him as Richard Reid. They say he's about 28 years old and was traveling alone with no luggage.

We're going to go right to CNN's Jeff Levine who is at the Pentagon to give us the latest on these F-15 fighter jets that escorted the plane to Boston. What can you tell us, Jeff?

JEFF LEVINE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Catherine, we have been talking with officials of the North American Aerospace Defense Command about this situation, and they do confirm that U.S. fighters did intercept this American Airlines flight that was going from Paris to Miami, they did escort the flight to Boston's Logan Airport as you suggested.

There are a lot of questions that we do have. For example, where the plane was actually intercepted, how many planes were involved, how the fighters got word that there was a problem.

Now, we know from talking with NORAD, which does monitor the skies of the United States to make sure there is no threat that has penetrated U.S. air space, we know that there are some 100 aircraft on duty, surveilling the skies to make sure that there is not threat, and of course American officials are very concerned to present -- to prevent any sort of tragedy like the one that occurred on September the 11th.

In particular, Washington and New York are under 24-hour air surveillance, protected by fighters. But again, we understand, by talking to spokespeople at NORAD, that they did intercept this American Airlines jet that was bound from Paris to Miami, that they did safely escort it to Boston's Logan Airport.

But of course, there are many, many questions yet to be answered, Catherine, but obviously everyone quite relieved that another disaster did not occur.

CALLAWAY: Relieved indeed. Thank you, Jeff Levine at the Pentagon, and of course we will continue to follow this story of the American Airlines Flight 63.

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