SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A Yemeni man yelled “God is greatest” in Arabic as he tried to barge into the cockpit of an American Airlines flight over the weekend, a federal prosecutor told a judge in the case on Tuesday.
Rageh Al-Murisi, 28, has been charged with interfering with a flight crew for the incident on Sunday aboard American Airlines flight 1561, which was bound for San Francisco from Chicago with 162 people on board.
About 20 minutes before the plane landed, Al-Musiri allegedly tried to open the cockpit door, ramming his shoulder into it until a flight attendant and passengers subdued him, according to a criminal complaint issued on Monday.
Assistant U.S. attorney Elise Becker, in arguing that Al-Murisi was a threat to public safety, told U.S. Magistrate Judge James Larson that the defendant, who boarded the flight with no luggage, was heard to yell “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is greatest” in Arabic during the incident.
Flight records show that the hijackers behind the September 11, 2001 attacks, shouted the same thing, Becker told the court.
Becker also said Al-Murisi was carrying only $47, several forms of identification and an Apple computer charger on the flight.
Larson ordered Al-Murisi to remain in jail until a hearing on Friday to determine whether he could be freed on bail.
Al-Musiri’s actions aboard Flight 1561 came on the same day Reynel Alcaide, a 34-year-old passenger aboard Continental Airlines flight 546 from Houston to Chicago, allegedly tried to open the emergency door in mid-flight.
Alcaide, a resident of Burbank, Illinois, was subdued by passengers and crew members and the flight was diverted to St. Louis, where it landed safely.
A federal law enforcement official said investigators are looking into possible links between the two incidents, but have not found any connection.
The FBI continues to investigate both cases, and the bureau has not found any indication the two men had ties to any militant group.
In light of the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on May 2 in Pakistan by U.S. Navy SEAL commandos, federal officials have warned of possible retaliation by the group.
Al-Murisi faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted of interfering with a flight crew.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis and Gabrielle Saveri; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Jerry Norton