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Abdirahman Ali Gaal suspected by U.S. authorities of terrorist ties, who was taken off an airplane in Canada, has been handed over to the United States, on Sunday 06/27/2010, USA and Canadian officials.

Abdirahman Ali Gaal had been on an Aeromexico flight from Paris to Mexico, on 06/01/2010, when officials from the USA Department of Homeland Security discovered his name on a no-fly list and banned the plane from entering U.S. airspace. Names are usually put on the no-fly list after first being entered into a classified counterterrorism database called TIDE, based on intelligence allegedly linking an individual to terrorism. Officials said Abdirahman Ali Gaal’s name was on the no-fly list—and one confirmed that he was in the TIDE database—because of intelligence that he had been involved with a terrorist group or a significant suspect in Somalia.

Abdirahman Ali Gaal’s brother recently told a Canadian newspaper he spent the last 10 months in North Africa studying Islam, and often chatted about his religious views on the website Gaal’s stepsister, who lives near Seattle, said her stepbrother fled to war-torn Somalia when he was young. But he’d been living in Seattle until he left the country nearly a year ago. FBI Director Robert Mueller recently visited Seattle and warned of growing attempts to recruit and radicalize young Muslim men across the USA.

But authorities apparently lack hard evidence of terrorist involvement. Abdirahman Ali Gaal, a Somali immigrant to the USA who had established permanent residency at least two years ago, has been handed over to USA immigration authorities the next day and has not been charged with any terror-related offenses, according to two federal officials involved in the case. “Mr. Gaal was returned to the USA yesterday where he was questioned by [Homeland Security] officials,” Matthew Chandler, a spokesman for Homeland Security, told Declassified in an e-mail message. “In the course of that interview process, he was determined to be inadmissible to the United States, and is currently being detained pending immigration proceedings.”

Abdirahman Ali Gaal, currently held at a detention facility in New York state, could not be reached for comment.

Historically, names have been added to the no-fly list only if intelligence indicates that the person in question poses a direct threat to aviation or had posed such a threat in the past. However, in the wake of the failed attempt last Christmas by a Nigerian-born jihadist recruit, Umar Abdulmutallab, to blow up Flight-253 the Obama administration began a review of the criteria for who gets put on a watch list. Officials may have loosened the criteria.

If Abdirahman Ali Gaal had been on a U.S.-bound flight, airline officials would have been obliged to prevent him from boarding because he was on the no-fly list. But Gaal’s flight was overflying American airspace, not landing here. The current system for vetting passengers for such flights does not require strict preboarding checks against the no-fly list. Nonetheless, American authorities learned about Gaal’s presence on the flight before it entered American airspace, enabling them to divert the plane to Canada.

A USA official said that Homeland Security was instituting deportation proceedings against Abdirahman Ali Gaal, based on an alleged “admission” that he “committed fraud” when applying for refugee status in Canada in 10/2008. At that time, the official said, Abdirahman Ali Gaal effectively gave up his legal permanent residency in the United States by departing the USA for a period of more than 10 months and then applying for refugee status in Canada.

Authorities have denied that Abdirahman Ali Gaal is the same person as a suspect mentioned in a Homeland Security bulletin, first mentioned last week by Fox News, which advised law-enforcement officials in Texas to be on the lookout for a suspected member of the Somali-based terror group al-Shabab trying to cross into the USA from Mexico. One official said that there is no indication that American authorities intend to bring any criminal charges against Abdirahman Ali Gaal. Another official said that immigration authorities could hold him indefinitely pending possible deportation.



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