FBI looks for men who booked flight to village near pipeline-
The Associated Press
ANCHORAGE (December 24, 8:10 a.m. AST) - Amid heightened national security, the FBI is looking for a man who booked a flight to a remote village near
the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.
A man had requested a charter to the Koyukuk River village of Allakaket using a known alias of Zaman Muhammad, but he and a travel companion didn't
show up for the flight. The air carrier then contacted the FBI.
"We cannot connect them with any type of criminal activity at this time," said Bob Burnham, assistant special agent in charge for the FBI in
Anchorage. "As far as we know, there could be a completely innocent explanation to all of it."
Saying new intelligence data suggested the possibility of terrorist attacks during the holidays, federal officials on Sunday raised the national
security threat level to "orange," the highest notch below an actual attack. Gov. Frank Murkowski raised the state's level to orange on Monday.
Burnham said employees at the air carrier became suspicious about a stranger asking to travel to Allakaket, 190 miles northwest of Fairbanks, in
winter. The flight path parallels the pipeline part of the distance, but doesn't cross it.
The agent would not say who contacted the FBI about the flight or comment on how the agency knew the person may have used an alias.
"It's the orange alert that caused us to look at this a little more quickly," Burnham told the Anchorage Daily News. "It's a great example of
somebody trying to do the right thing."
The operations manager at Warbelow's Air Ventures called the FBI sometime over the weekend about two passengers who had booked seats on Sunday's
regular flight to Allakaket using a reservation service, said owner Art Warbelow. They hadn't chartered their own flight, however.
Seeing two strangers giving Middle Eastern names heading to the Athabascan village of 97 seemed odd, especially since the flight carries regulars,
Warbelow said. The passengers never showed up.
"We're in a little different situation from most of the big airlines because we know all of our customers," Warbelow added.