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Man Accused of Bringing 100 Pounds of Explosives Into U.S.

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

A man arrested after crossing into the United States from Canada with more than 100 pounds of powerful explosives and timing devices was charged Friday with bring nitroglycerin into the country.

Ahmed Ressam, of Algeria, also was charged with having false identification and making false statements to U.S. Customs Service officials when he arrived in the country last Tuesday.

An arraignment and detention hearing was set for Wednesday.

Magistrate David E. Wilson authorized the destruction of two 22-ounce jars of nitroglycerin, now in a bomb-disposal truck near Port Angeles, where he entered the country on a ferry from Victoria, British Columbia.

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Nitroglycerin is a flammable, explosive oil. Federal officials have taken samples, and the liquid is highly volatile and dangerous, FBI Agent Lesley Jackson told the court.

“It is sensitive to motion. It is sensitive to heat,” she said.

“We would like the opportunity to test it for ourselves,” said defense lawyer Mike Filipovic, arguing for a one-week delay.

But Wilson approved its disposal, citing public safety and the safety of federal agents who have been keeping the material on ice.

Ressam tried to outrun the agents last Tuesday after they found garbage bags of white powder and jars of liquid in his rental car, Customs Service agents said. They caught up with him near a ferry landing at Port Angeles, about 60 miles from Seattle, after he crossed over from British Columbia.

Customs officials at the ferry crossing became suspicious when his itinerary showed he had come from Vancouver and was heading to Seattle--a 140-mile drive that does not require a trip to Vancouver Island, a ferry ride or a stop in Port Angeles, said FBI spokesman Pat Jones in Washington, D.C.

When the inspector asked about his roundabout route, Ressam became nervous, Jones said, and was told to get out of his car. Inspectors searched his car. When they found the plastic bags of white powder, he fled, Jones said.

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The timing of his arrival--shortly before the millennial New Year’s Eve--”is very interesting,” said Jesse Chester, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. “It raises a lot of questions in a lot of our minds as far as motive.”

Federal officials suspect he may be part of a larger organization, and others may have entered the country, the Seattle Times reported.

“This could be a big-time story,” Rodney Tureaud, agent in charge of the Customs Service in Seattle, told the paper.

The man was carrying two Canadian driver’s licenses, in different names, and a Canadian passport.

Cathy McMurrin, manager of the Best Western Loyal Inn in Seattle, said someone using the name Benni Norin called Best Western’s national reservations center on Dec. 14 and made a reservation for that evening. The motel is a few blocks from the Seattle Center, where the city has scheduled a huge New Year’s Eve celebration.

Norin never showed, McMurrin said, and never made another reservation.

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