JFK passenger detained in Egypt had ‘undeclared’ guns in checked luggage

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, May 12, 2010 17:50 EDT
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CAIRO — Egyptian authorities detained a passenger arriving from New York’s JFK airport Wednesday with handguns, ammunition and knives in his bag, but US officials said there had been no security lapse.

Mohamed Ibrahim Marei, a US university professor of Egyptian origin, arrived on EgyptAir flight 986 from John F. Kennedy Airport.

Customs officials in Cairo checked his luggage because he looked nervous, and found two handguns and 250 rounds of ammunition hidden in metal boxes, an Egyptian official said on condition of anonymity.

In a secret compartment in the bag, authorities also found two swords, five daggers and six knives, the official added.

An investigation has been launched, the official said.

The US Transport Security Administration, which is in charge of baggage security, confirmed that two undeclared firearms were found in the man’s luggage, but said there had been no security glitch at JFK.

Packing weapons in checked baggage is legal in the United States. When a passenger is flying internationally it is the responsibility of the passenger and the airline to clarify rules at the destination for the goods, according to US law.

“Transporting firearms within the US in checked baggage is permitted if properly declared to the airline,” the TSA said in a statement.

“Many other countries have different laws that address transportation and possession of firearms. We recommend passengers traveling internationally check with the authorities at their destination about their requirements.”

A US security official who asked not to be identified said that the TSA’s job is to scan only for explosives, not weapons, in checked baggage, since it is not possible for a passenger to access the plane’s hold during flights.

The New York Times adds,

Transporting firearms in checked baggage is permitted if they have been properly declared to the airline, according to federal regulations. Airlines are responsible for ensuring that the proper paperwork has been filled out. A Transportation Security Administration official said the firearms in this case were not declared.

The Transportation Security Administration screens checked luggage for explosives, but not firearms, which are inaccessible to passengers during the flight and do not pose an immediate security threat. If security officials discover guns or ammunition improperly packed during the course of normal screening, they will notify the airline, an official said.

The government can also levy a civil penalty against an airline or passenger if proper steps were not taken to declare a firearm. It was not immediately clear whether Egypt Air or the passenger would be subject to such fines.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
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