Iraqi seeks apology after being removed from Oakland-bound plane

A UC Berkeley student who was removed from a Southwest Airlines plane after a fellow passenger heard him speaking in Arabic on his mobile phone is still waiting for an explanation and an apology from somebody. Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, a 26-year-old Iraqi refugee and the son of a slain Iraqi diplomat, had just boarded his Oakland-bound flight at Los Angeles International Airport on April 6 when he called and spoke with an uncle on his mobile phone. After he was led from his seat, Makhzoomi said he was questioned in the aircraft jet way by a series of security and police officers. Makhzoomi, who is studying political science and near Eastern languages and literature at Berkeley, said he was interrogated at length, sniffed by police dogs and subjected to an intimate body search in front of passersby. Southwest, in a statement, confirmed it had removed Makhzoomi from the plane because of what it called “potentially threatening comments made aboard our aircraft” and “further discussion.” The airline issued a statement that said it “regrets any less than positive experience on board our aircraft.” The FBI did not return several phone calls seeking comment. Islamic leaders said they were disappointed to learn of what happened to Makhzoomi and worried that racial profiling was involved in his being removed from the plane. “We’re concerned that this is part of a trend of Muslims being profiled and their right to travel being impacted,” said Zahra Billoo, executive director of the San Francisco chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Makhzoomi, who said he has taken two dozen flights on Southwest in the past year or so and is a member of its frequent flier plan, said he was seeking nothing more from the airline than an apology.

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