The Two EgyptAir employees, who found a travel bag containing a bomb on a Manhattan street last month and then walked off with the bag but left the bomb, were not just employees of EgyptAir but in-flight security officers for the carrier, two officials at the airline, reported The New York Times.
The two men, identified as Hassan Ali and Abou Bakr Radwan, had flown to New York from here, serving as unarmed security guards on the flight, the officials said.
The New York Times said,”Surveillance footage showed two men finding the bag on West 27th Street on the evening of Sept. 17, soon after a bomb exploded on West 23rd Street, injuring 31 people and triggering terrorism fears across the region.”
The video showed EgyptAir security guards pulling from the travel bag a white plastic bag that contained a pressure cooker connected to wires and a mobile phone.
The two men left the white bag on the sidewalk and walked away with the travel bag. The bomb did not explode, and investigators have said that the men may have inadvertently disabled the device.
The bag they found contained one of several homemade bombs that prosecutors say were planted that day in New York and New Jersey by Ahmed Khan Rahami, an Afghan-born American citizen.
In response, the American investigators released footage of the two men, calling for help in identifying them.
The officials who identified them as Mr. Ali and Mr. Radwan said that they want to speak on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
EgyptAir officials said they believed that the two employees were not connected to Mr. Rahami or the bomb plot.
One of the officials said of the travel bag, “They didn’t know what was in it.” Then the official recalled “Mr.Ali. told me he saw it and thought it was nice.”He continued, “He opened the bag to check it out and found a pot.”
The official explained that Mr. Ali did not want to go to the trouble of flying the pot back to Cairo, so he put it aside and left with the travel bag.
EgyptAir official justified the incident saying , “You know, we see things left on the street in New York all the time.”He added, “Stuff no one wants. It’s normal to take them.”
The two men told friends and colleagues that they had not read the news or realized the significance of their find until Egyptian reporters started calling EgyptAir, the officials said.
According to one of the officials, Mr. Ali and Mr. Radwan flew back to Cairo the day after the incident. The American investigators have not been able to interview them, the officials said.
One of the officials said, “Egyptian police officers went to Cairo International Airport on Friday to question the two men but were unable to find them because it was their day off.”
Mr. Ali and Mr. Radwan have not been disciplined by EgyptAir, staff members of the airline said. Tarek Attiya, a spokesman for the police, said he could not deny or confirm any of the developments.
Mr. Ali and Mr. Radwan main work as EgyptAir employs in-flight security officers to maintain order during flights and to ensure that planes are secure during stopovers at foreign airports. In fact, Egyptian security officials are unarmed and can be identified by an understated uniform, unlike the undercover air marshals who travel on American carriers.
Generally, one security officer sits near the front of the cabin and another toward the rear. In addition,they are responsible for searching workers who clean planes between flights in some foreign airports . When a plane is in the air, they sometimes deal with unruly passengers.They receive modest training and are typically paid about $400 a month.
Before the identities of the men who found the bag were revealed, Dina el-Fouly, a spokeswoman for EgyptAir, said that they were not EgyptAir workers and that the men shown in the surveillance footage did not resemble any of their employees. “Ms. Fouly could not be reached for comment after the men were identified,” said NYT.
However,images from Mr. Radwan’s Facebook page appear to match one of the men in a photograph released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The F.B.I. declined to comment, according to NYT.
According to several EgyptAir officials, Mr. Ali and Mr. Radwan have no known political affiliations. One EgyptAir official said, “These guys are harmless; they would be useless in a fist fight.” He added,“They cannot be in any way involved.”
He added that they are shocked and scared now as they don’t understand that they are wanted as witnesses. “Radwan is especially scared. The poor guy is always anxious,” said the official.
The New York Tines also reported that Mr.Radwan said when he was reached by phone on Friday, “Please, I cannot say anything.” He said, “There is a spokesperson for the company. Speak to them.” He then ended the call.
Mr. Radwan’s last public post on Facebook came a day before the attacks in New York and New Jersey. It is a video of a man urging people not to associate Islam with terrorism.
The New York Times said that there were several attempts to reach Mr. Ali on Friday through an intermediary but they were unsuccessful.
In fact, EygptAir security guards incident in Manhattan street is troubling for Egypt which is striving to revive back tourism as its aviation security procedures have come under intense scrutiny after three major air disasters in the past year.
last year in October 2015, a Russain plane crashed in Sinai Peninsula. Sinai Province- a group affiliated to the Islamic State(ISIS)- declared its responsibility for the attack. Moreover, a passenger wearing a fake explosives belt hijacked a domestic EgyptAir flight and diverted it to Cyprus,in March 2016. Within hours the crisis was resolved when the man surrendered.
In May, EgyptAir 804 crashed into the Mediterranean en route from Paris to Cairo, killing all 66 people on board. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.