Airhead to move his buttBy GEOFF EARLE
New York Post
April 9, 2010
WASHINGTON -- A Qatari diplomat who caused a security scare when he tried to grab an in-flight smoke on a passenger jet and joked about terrorism is getting booted out of the country -- after it was revealed he flew to Denver to visit an al Qaeda prisoner.
Mohammed Al-Madadi, an official at the Qatar Embassy in Washington, triggered a government alert Wednesday when he tried to light up in the restroom of a United Airlines flight from DC to Denver.
When a federal air marshal asked Madadi about the smell of smoke, he allegedly made a smug crack about trying to light his shoe on fire. The reference to 2001 shoe bomber Richard Reid prompted the military to scramble two F-16 fighter jets to escort the plane to Denver.
US officials revealed yesterday that Qatar will yank Madadi, 27, out of the country today or tomorrow and bring him home or transfer him to another country.
"We fully expect this will be resolved very quickly," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters.
A State Department official and another source said Madadi, a database administrator at the embassy, was flying to Denver for a consular visit with a Qatari al Qaeda suspect being held at the federal "Supermax" prison in Florence, Colo.
The prisoner, Ali al-Marri, was arrested after the 9/11 attacks on charges of being a sleeper agent while studying at Bradley University in Illinois, and is serving eight years after pleading guilty to conspiring to support terrorism.
Authorities said Marri was researching poisonous gases and plotting a cyber attack.
Alison Bradley, a spokeswoman for the embassy, declined to answer why a database manager would be going on a consular visit to a terror suspect. She said his embassy title was third secretary.
Yesterday morning, Qatari ambassador Ali Bin Fahad Al-Hajri posted a statement on the embassy Web site saying Madadi was "on official embassy business on my instructions, and he was certainly not engaged in any threatening activity."
United Airlines banned Madadi from using his return ticket to Washington because he violated federal regulations by smoking. He flew into Baltimore on another airline.
Even before details of the al Qaeda visit were known, lawmakers called for Qatar to kick Madadi out of the country. Diplomats living here enjoy broad immunity from prosecution.
"This was disgraceful conduct," fumed Rep. Peter King (R-LI), the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee.
"They should recall him immediately and Qatar should offer to reimburse us for all the cost of this and for putting people's lives at risk," he added.
Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) told FoxNews.com: "Even being dumb, there are consequences for it."
A profile on networking site LinkedIn says Madadi got a business degree at George Washington University in 2008 and runs the database at the embassy.
Qatar, a small, oil-rich state Persian Gulf state, is a US ally and home to US Central Command.