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Air Scare Mystery: 'I've Been Captured'

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  • Air Scare Mystery: 'I've Been Captured'

    PORTLAND, Maine — Federal authorities tried Friday to unravel the story of a Chicago investment banker who vanished on Valentine's Day, may have gone to New York and then reappeared Thursday night on a Morocco-bound flight, where he claimed he had been kidnapped by Al Qaeda (search).


    Officials questioned Zubar Ghias, 27, in Bangor, Maine, but he was not placed under arrest.

    A second passenger, whose name was not released, was sitting next to Ghias, Bangor Police Sgt. James Owens said. Bangor police removed both passengers from the flight and took them to the FBI's Bangor office, Owens said. Neither was under arrest, he said.

    Tony Caruso, assistant director of Bangor International Airport, also said two people were removed from the flight.

    "It would make sense that we would interview a number of people," said FBI spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz.

    Ghias was on board Royal Air Maroc's (search) Flight 201 when it took off from New York's Kennedy International Airport Thursday evening en route to Casablanca. Federal authorities diverted the Boeing 767 to Bangor, where it landed about four hours later.

    Transportation Security Administration (search) spokesman Mark Hatfield said the plane was redirected because of a bomb threat, which he said had apparently been made by a passenger.

    Marcinkiewicz cited calls from Chicago-area media to an airline security desk in New York reporting a possible bomb.

    "There was no bomb," she said.

    Holly Baker, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration (search) in New England, said she knew nothing about a bomb threat. Baker said the plane was diverted because "there was a person aboard who they felt was a security risk."

    The plane, carrying 92 people, was refueled and passengers were rescreened before it took off again from Bangor International Airport at 3:51 a.m. en route to Casablanca.

    Caruso said the pilot first told passengers that the Boeing 767 had mechanical troubles "so the passengers wouldn't get upset."

    The Bangor airport was notified 10 to 15 minutes before the plane landed, he said. "We got a call that there was an irate passenger on board, and also a bomb threat," he said.

    The Boston FBI office, which oversees Maine, told Fox News that other passengers besides Ghias had been questioned in Bangor. All were released.

    Ghias was not in FBI custody, nor in Bangor police custody, the FBI said. Ghias' family told Fox News that they had not yet heard from him on Friday.

    'I've Been Captured by Al Qaeda'

    Before taking off Thursday, Ghias borrowed a cell phone from another passenger and called his wife with a cryptic message.

    Eddie Rizzo, a private investigator in Chicago, quoted Ghias as telling his wife: "I'm on flight 201 to Morocco. I've been captured by Al Qaeda. They want me to do something for them. I love you, I just gotta do this."

    Marcinkiewicz wouldn't comment on Rizzo's story.

    "He basically told his family he was forced onto the plane by some Arabic people," said FBI agent James Osterrieder. "He basically said that his family was threatened and commenced to tell us he had been abducted some time on Valentine's Day actually, and that he had been held ever since, mostly in New York City."

    The call from Ghias was the first contact his family had with him in nearly a week. He disappeared one day after buying a new ring for his wife in Chicago.

    Ghias' wife, who is 6 months pregnant, last saw him Saturday when he picked her up from the airport around 8 a.m., left her at their home and said he was going to do some work at his office at J.P. Morgan Chase and Company, the NBC affiliate in Chicago reported. She reported her husband missing around noon on Monday.

    Ghias apparently never went to his office, and his 2003 Land Rover was found at about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.

    Chicago Police Sgt. Scott Schwieger said police found two gold rings and a note asking for help in the car, but investigators had not confirmed that it was written in Ghias' hand, or for how long it may have been in the car.

    Ghias withdrew about $5,000 in small bills from his checking account at a Harris Bank branch in Chicago around 11:45 a.m. Saturday.

    Rizzo said Ghias had dinner at his father-in-law's house Friday night and told him he was interested in purchasing an antique wristwatch for $5,000.

    Ghias' family held a press conference Thursday night. His uncle said he wanted to thank God for bringing his nephew back.

    Tracked to New York

    The FBI said they tracked Ghias down to a New York City location in at least one instance, on Feb. 16.

    A man who matched his description purchased drywall, tape and glue at a hardware store in Brooklyn using a credit card in the days after he disappeared, Schwieger said.

    The store did not have a security camera, so there was no positive ID, but according to Rizzo, the signature on the receipt matches Ghias' signature.

    "I called the shop and talked to the owner," Rizzo told the television station. "He remembers the guy."

    Ghias may have contacts in Brooklyn from business trips he had taken to New York in the past, Schwieger said.

    Rizzo told Fox News that "the guy's straight up," has a wealthy family, isn't involved in drugs and is a "complete family man."

    "It is again the most bizarre case I've ever handled and it goes from left to right every five minutes," Rizzo said. "But the more I get into it, the more I really believe the guy."

    Fox News' Jeff Goldblatt and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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