NEW YORK — An Orthodox Jew’s prayer rituals, including wearing a sacred box on his head, triggered a bomb scare Thursday aboard a US passenger plane, a security source said.
The Chautauqua Airlines jet bound from New York to Louisville, Kentucky, diverted to Philadelphia International Airport after what authorities described as a security incident.
“It appears that it was a misunderstanding with a religious passenger wearing a religious item and praying loudly,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
“The flight crew deemed, I guess, his actions and his item he was using to be suspicious and diverted the airplane,” the security source said.
Greg Soule, spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, said that a “disruptive passenger” caused the incident.
The passenger was questioned by law enforcement officers on the ground and the plane was searched with “negative findings,” Soule said.
“There’s an individual in custody,” an FBI spokesman in Philadelphia told AFP. “There was a security concern but I can’t comment on that.”
US Airways was initially reported to be the airline involved. Chautauqua Airlines operates in partnership with US Airways, as well as other major brands.
Initial reports on CBS 3 television referred to a male passenger who’d strapped a wire from his fingers to his head.
The security source said that the passenger in question was in fact wearing a phylactery, the box containing Bible verses that Orthodox Jews strap around their head as part of their rituals.
He was “praying loudly and using this device,” the source said. “What we’re hearing is there was a language barrier.”
US security services and airports have been on high alert since an alleged attempt on December 25 by a Nigerian man to set off a bomb on a plane flying from Amsterdam to Detroit.
The man’s device allegedly malfunctioned and he was quickly overpowered by passengers and the airliner’s crew.