JetBlue flight 261 left Boston airport heading toward San Juan, Puerto Rico, and was the subject of a struggle when a Muslim assailant charged multiple crew members and tried to storm the airplane cockpit, an FBI counter-terrorism agent said in an affidavit. The assailant is identified as Khalil El Dahr. According to the affidavit, the Muslim assailant nearly choked one crew member to death while punching and kicking other crewmembers. It ultimately took seven crewmembers and multiple makeshift restraints to finally restrain the angered Muslim assailant.
The attack started when Dahr had a phone call that made him angry. As a response, he attacked the crewmembers demanding they shoot him and then, when one of the crewmembers opened the airplane cockpit’s door, for reasons unexplained by the affidavit, attempted to storm the cockpit. During the attacks on the crew and assailment of the cockpit, Dahr nearly choked one crew member to death by yanking on his tie. He tried to kick another crewman in the chest to gain leverage and escape into the cockpit before he could be subdued. Multiple passengers claim they heard Dahr shout “Allah” in addition to other phrases in Arabic and Spanish that were translated by other passengers and crewmen.
Retired FAA special agent Brian Sullivan commented to the Boston Herald about the incident, stating how such incidents are worrisome since there was chatter about terrorist attacks following 9/11 memorials. He told Boston Herald, “There’s been a lot of air rage incidents of late. The frequency of these can mask attempts to test the system. Sometimes those who test the system can ask to be shot in an attempt to see if they can draw out a Federal Air Marshal.”
However, there is no information in the affidavit commenting on whether this was a terrorist attack to test the system. The affidavit states that the facts contained in it are not exhaustive. This means more information could be coming out at a later date.
The flight successfully landed in San Juan, and Dahr has been charged with Interference with Flight Crew Members and Attendants, or 49 U.S.C. § 46504, a charge which could come with a prison sentence of up to 20 years. The section reads:
“An individual on an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States who, by assaulting or intimidating a flight crewmember or flight attendant of the aircraft, interferes with the performance of the duties of the member or attendant or lessens the ability of the member or attendant to perform those duties, or attempts or conspires to do such an act, shall be fined under title 18, imprisoned for not more than 20 years, or both. However, if a dangerous weapon is used in assaulting or intimidating the member or attendant, the individual shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.”
Title 18 is a reference to the section of the U.S. Code dealing with crimes and procedures.
The flight took off on September 22, 2021, just 11 days after the remembrance of 9/11. PJ Media reminded audiences that one of the plane hijackers on Sept.11 had to remind himself to scream “Allahu Akbar” because he said it “struck fear” in those who heard it.
The affidavit states the counter-terrorism agent conducted multiple interviews with passengers and law enforcement officers in addition to obtaining the arrest records and other reliable sources of information. According to the affidavit, the counter-terrorism agent has extensive experience with similar cases.
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–By CNJ contributor John S. Paluska