Dutch authorities charged the United Airlines passengers with "preparation of a terrorist attack".
One of the men was transporting suspicious-but-not-illegal items. The items were in baggage that was checked in on a flight to Washington, D.C. that neither man boarded.
It was nine years ago this month that the September 11 plotters were conducting the very same kinds of practice runs that federal authorities believe they interrupted Monday. One law enforcement source told CNN that the men who flew out of O'Hare on Sunday may have been trying to test whether bottles of liquid attached to electronic devices could make it past airport security.
One of the men tried to slip a "mock bomb" past TSA in his checked luggage, according to one law enforcement source. Ahmed Mohamed Nasser Al Soofi had checked the suitcase containing a cell phone taped to a bottle of Pepto-Bismol stomach medicine, three cell phones taped together, several watches taped together, a box cutter and three large knives, according to authorities. He was also carrying $7,000 dollars in cash.
Neither the checked items nor that amount of money were illegal and even though airport security in Alabama was suspicious of Al Soofi's bulky clothing and searched him twice, they let him board the plane for Chicago.
"If he was some danger they would have grabbed his a-- from Chicago airport and he would be shaking in the airport before he fly," said Al Nasir, suspect's neighbor in Detroit.
Terror suspect Al Soofi lived in Detroit until recently when he moved to Alabama.
It was at the Birmingham, Alabama airport where Al Soofi and his baggage were checked by TSA screeners.
When Al Soofi arrived at O'Hare Sunday night on the flight from Birmingham, he didn't have to clear security again, just change planes for the United jetliner to Amsterdam. That's when he met up with his overseas traveling partner Hezem Al Murisi, who had flown in from Memphis. They left Chicago and were not arrested until Monday morning on arrival in Amsterdam and at the request of U.S. authorities charged with "preparation of a terrorist attack."
"It's a reminder we live in a dangerous world and have to be on guard," said Sen. Dick Durbin.
"We have to take everything seriously and that's what we have to do as governor and American citizens," said Gov. Pat Quinn.
Al Soofi's link to Alabama is the third major terror case this month that has an Alabama connection. In early August a Chicago man, originally from Alabama, was arrested as he headed to the airport allegedly on a suicide mission to Africa. A second man also from Alabama was indicted the next day. Abu Mansour Al-Amriki has produced this internet videos called "blow by blow" that has been used to recruit recruited dozens of young Muslim men from the U.S. to train as terrorists overseas.
The FBI, TSA and United Airlines all declined comment on the terror investigation. And as if electronics taped to a Pepto-Bismol bottle were not alarming enough, perhaps the most startling behavior by the suspects was this, according to investigators: in Chicago they changed their itinerary at the last minute sending the baggage onto their original flight through Washington D.C.
Neither man was on the no-fly list, according to TSA.