Security concerns put Port of Miami on heightened alert

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | Monday, January 08, 2007

Tensions were running high at the Port of Miami Monday, after two incidents reinforced the need for stringent security at one of the nation’s busiest shipping hubs.

On Sunday morning, police said, three Middle-Eastern men trying to enter the port in a tractor-trailer were arrested after a language barrier and two passengers found hiding in the sleeper spurred officers to initiate anti-terrorism procedures.

The men, all of Dearborn, MI, were arrested and charged Sunday, though a Dade County Circuit Judge dropped charges Monday.

A heightened sense of alarm at the port was punctuated by another incident Monday afternoon, after officials began suspecting a package that was to be loaded onto a cruise ship of being a bomb.

However, according to CNN, the package did not contain any explosive materials, as was originally suspected. As of press time, no connection between the device and the arrests from the day before had been announced.

Although information on the explosive was still sketchy as of press time Monday, details surrounding Sunday’s arrests have started to come together.

According to Miami-Dade police, Amar Al Hadad, 28, pulled a truck into the Port of Miami at 8 a.m. Sunday. Al Hadad was told to pull into the port’s commercial vehicle inspection station after a routine security check at the port’s main gate revealed he didn’t have seaport-issued identification required by the port.

“What he had didn’t make any sense and he didn’t have proper identification to go onto that port,” said Nelda Fonticiella, a spokesman with the Miami-Dade Police Department.

A Miami-Dade Police officer noticed Hussain Al Hadad, 24, and Hassan El Sayed, 20, in the truck’s sleeper, which conflicted with Amar Al Hadad’s statement to the officer that he was alone, Fonticiella said.

“In an abundance of caution,” a police news release said, port officials called in the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Department of Homeland Security.

The 40-foot trailer attached to the tractor was loaded with electric automotive parts, and the federal agencies declared the port was safe late Sunday.

Amar Al Hadad and Hussain Al Hadad, natives of Iraq, were charged with resisting an officer without violence, and Hussain Al Hadad and El Sayed, were charged with trespassing for hiding the truck’s cab, Fonticiella said.

El Sayed was born in Lebanon. All three suspects are legal U.S. citizens, police said.

The charges were dropped Monday morning, said Fonticiella, who declined to comment further.

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