Religious Prayer Ritual on Alaska Airlines Flight Causes Cockpit Lockdown

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Chesdovi, Wikimedia Commons

Police escorted three men off an Alaska Airlines plane from Mexico City to Los Angeles yesterday after flight attendants were alarmed by their orthodox Jewish prayer ritual.

"Shortly after takeoff, a flight attendant saw what she believed was unusual behavior from three passengers on board. The three passengers were praying aloud in Hebrew and were wearing what appeared to be leather straps on their foreheads and arms," an Alaska Airlines spokeswoman explains to NBC LA.

"This appeared to be a security threat and the pilots locked down the flight deck and followed standard security procedures," the spokeswoman continues. "The pilots informed LAX and when the plane landed, TSA, customs, the FBI and law enforcement were there."

Firefighters and foam trucks met the jet as it taxied to the terminal, where the FBI removed the three Mexican nationals for questioning. After the suspicious activity turned out to be a prayer ritual called tefillin, the men were allowed to continue on their way.

"The plane was inspected by local law enforcement and has been cleared," says the airline spokeswoman.

In January 2010, a US Airways flight from New York to Louisville was diverted to Philadelphia after a 17-year-old practiced the same ritual.

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