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Last week, a Pennsylvania man was arrested and charged with federal crimes after he tried to board a flight to Florida with explosives hidden in his checked luggage. The incident raised questions about airport security and the motive of the suspect. Read on below for everything we know about the situation.
Discovering the bomb
The explosive device was discovered on Monday, February 27, at Lehigh Valley International Airport in Allentown, Pennsylvania. According to the FBI, a man named Marc Muffley had checked in a suitcase that contained an improvised explosive concealed in the lining.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) detected the device during a routine screening and alerted law enforcement. The airport was evacuated and bomb disposal experts safely removed and destroyed the device. No one was injured and no flights were delayed.
Muffley had left the airport before he could be stopped by authorities. He apparently boarded a shuttle bus that took him to his car parked off-site. He then drove away from the airport.
The FBI tracked him down to his home in Lansford and arrested him later that night. He was charged with attempting to carry an explosive device onto an aircraft and possession of an unregistered destructive device. Muffley could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Muffley admitted to packing the explosives in his suitcase and fleeing the airport when he realized he might be caught. However, he did not reveal why he did so or what his intended target was. Muffley told investigators that he had obtained the explosive materials from a friend who worked at a coal mine. He said he used them for recreational purposes such as blowing up tree stumps on his property.
Muffley said he did not intend to harm anyone or cause any damage. However, authorities are skeptical of his explanation and are investigating whether he had any links to extremist groups or ideologies. They are also examining his phone records, social media accounts, and travel history for any clues.
The public reaction
This incident sparked concern among travelers and officials about the security of airports and airlines. Some wondered how Muffley was able to get past several checkpoints with explosives in his bag. The TSA said that it followed all protocols and procedures during the screening process and that its officers acted swiftly and professionally when they detected the threat.
The Lehigh Valley International Airport said that it cooperated fully with law enforcement agencies during the investigation and that it resumed normal operations as soon as possible after the incident. The Allegiant Air flight that Muffley was supposed to take departed without him on Monday afternoon. The airline said that it was not aware of any specific threat against its aircraft or passengers.
As of now, Muffley remains in federal custody without bail, pending a preliminary hearing that’s scheduled for March 15. He has not entered a plea yet or hired an attorney. His case is a good example of the ongoing challenge of preventing terrorist attacks on airplanes.