But DHS Says They're Not Terrorists
Four Chinese citizens and their Mexican pilot -- all thought to
have been trying to enter the US illegally -- were arrested Monday
night after their Cessna 172 was forced to land at Stinson Field,
near San Antonio, TX, by Immigration and Customs Enforcement
But after being thoroughly checked out, they're not terrorists,
according to the Department of Homeland Security. Instead, they
were just five of the thousands of people who try to sneak across
the border every year, officials said.
"We do not believe and all
indications from all the queries we have run through our joint task
force agents, indicate that this is not connected to the Chinese
involvement in the alerts in Boston," Alonzo R. Pena, Special Agent
in Charge of the Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement,
told WOAI-AM Tuesday.
The Cessna 172P is registered to Hameed Afzal of Dover, DE. WOAI
reports Afzal runs Alpha Tango Flying Service, which is based in
San Antonio. He told the radio station that he had rented the
aircraft to the same Mexican pilot more than once.
The case was especially alarming after news reports last week
cited threats to plant a radiological, or "dirty" bomb in the
Boston, MA, area -- a plot that was said to involve several Chinese
citizens. That forced Boston's mayor and the governor of
Massachusetts to forego last week's inaugural festivities in
Washington and rush back home to coordinate a response to the
information, which came in the form of a tip.
"I think they had specific names,"
Pena told WOAI radio. "They have been completely cross referenced
and cross checked, and we do not think its the same people, Boston
does not think it's the same people."
Instead, Pena told the radio station that the four Chinese
citizens paid the pilot between $40,000 and $100,000 each for a
chance to enter the US. But the aircraft was tracked from the time
it crossed the border, he said. A flight was sent to intercept the
Cessna, but the pilot landed on his own at Stinson before he could
be confronted in the air.
The four Chinese citizens will be sent back to their homeland,
Pena said. But the unidentified Mexican at the controls of the
aircraft will remain in the US for the time being, where he'll face
charges of immigration smuggling.