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The Paris attacks two weeks ago has put much of the West on edge.

The paranoia has now resulted in a U.S. citizen being wrongly removed from a flight and detained for hours.


Yaniv Abotbul, 38, a Florida resident and U.S. citizen of Israeli origin, was on a flight late Thursday to Minneapolis, where he owns clothing stores, the Palm Beach Sun Sentinel's Tonya Alanez writes.

Yaniv Abotbul
Sun Sentinel

According to a police report, a child sitting near Abotbul told her mother that while he was talking on his cellphone shortly before takeoff, Abotbul "made a remark about blowing up the plane."


The mother told a flight attendant, who passed it on to the plane's captain, who then made the decision to turn the flight around after 15 minutes in the air.

"It's devastating and very hard to know I have to pay a price for my appearance," Abotbul said at a news conference.

He said he was handcuffed and interrogated for five hours, NBC Miami reported. And when he tried to take a different flight, Spirit representatives refused to let him fly, according to his lawyer.

"My client was treated like a terrorist in his own country," the attorney, Mark Eiglarsh, said according to NBC.

Abotbul's removal follows a host of other similar recent incidents. On Wednesday, two U.S. citizens speaking Arabic were detained on a Southwest Airlines flight after a passenger overheard them. The pair had already shared the contents of a small box — baklava – with other passengers. The box was later deemed suspicious.

“If that person doesn’t feel safe, let them take the bus,” Khalil, who owns two pizza parlors in Philadelphia, said to a Southwest Airlines gate agent, according to NBC Philadelphia. “We’re American citizens just like everybody else.”


This was not the first incident of flights being disrupted by fears of terrorism this week. Another Southwest flight was delayed last week after six passengers were removed for trying to switch seats to sit next to each other. Four passengers were also removed from a Spirit flight last Tuesday for "suspicious behavior" that turned out to be their watching the news on their phone. On Wednesday, two men speaking Arabic were forced by fellow passengers to open a box that was deemed suspicious; the box carried baklava, the dessert pastry.

Several other passengers on Abotbul's flight were also questioned. Spirit Airlines said it followed proper protocol and insisted that profiling played no part in what unfolded.

"Mr. Abotbul was on the phone during taxi and takeoff, and making statements that alarmed other passengers — both of which violate airline and FAA regulations," Spirit spokesman Paul Berry said in an email to the Sun Sentinel.

Authorities said everything was the result of a "miscommunication."

"The intensive interviews revealed no actual threat was made to the flight and the incident appears to be a miscommunication from a juvenile witness," the police report concluded. "Abotbul was found to have played no part in the incident and was released."


Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.