Saudi teen arrested for disrupting flight

A teenager from Saudi Arabia who led Ashland police on a wild car chase Sunday was taken into custody by federal authorities Tuesday after he allegedly yelled profanities and struck passengers aboard an airplane leaving Portland International Airport.

The U.S. Attorney's Office filed an indictment against Yazeed Mohammed Abunayyan, 19, after his actions aboard a flight from Portland to Houston forced the plane to return to the airport soon after takeoff.

Abunayyan became combative when a flight attendant asked him to stop smoking an electronic cigarette, the indictment said.

The indictment states that Abunayyan began "yelling profanities and swinging his fist at the flight attendant, hitting or attempting to hit several passengers, and speaking or singing about Osama bin Laden and his hatred of women."

According to witness interviews obtained by KHOU-TV in Houston, Abunayyan became upset shortly after boarding because he was not seated next to his traveling companion.

Shortly after takeoff, the station reported, he tried to light the electronic cigarette and when a flight attendant asked him to stop, he reportedly tried to punch her.

"He was screaming, 'Allah is great, Allah is great,' " passenger Nancy Haywood told KHOU. "And it kind of worries you when that happens, but believe me, there were enough men to hold him down."

Another passenger said, "(seat belt) buckles were off" and "every guy in my area was ready to go."

The ruckus forced the Continental Airlines Boeing 737 to return to the airport, where Abunayyan was detained by authorities.

An electronic cigarette is a device that produces a nicotine mist that serves as a substitute to a traditional cigarette made from rolled tobacco.

Abunayyan appeared Wednesday in a U.S. District Court in Portland on charges of interfering with the operation of an aircraft. He did not issue a plea during his appearance. His lawyer asked for and was granted a continuance until Friday, according to U.S. Attorney's Office spokesperson Gerri Badden.

"He is being detained (in Portland) at least until Friday," Badden said.

Abunayyan made news in Ashland Sunday when he was arrested on numerous felony charges after leading police on a car chase.

Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston said the Ashland case against Abunayyan is scheduled to go before a grand jury next week. "We are still considering charges against him that we will present to the grand jury," Huddleston said.

Huddleston said Abunayyan posted bail Monday and signed an agreement upon his release that he would remain in the state until his next court appearance.

Huddleston said he is waiting for additional word from federal authorities before charging Abunayyan with violating his agreement to remain in Oregon after posting bail.

"If he did violate that agreement, then we certainly could charge him with that in addition to the police chase," Huddleston said.

Huddleston said Abunayyan does not have to be present for local prosecutors to issue an indictment against him.

"A warrant would be issued for his arrest following the grand jury hearing," Huddleston said, adding that the federal government's case against Abunayyan might delay his appearance in Jackson County Circuit Court.

"They might deal with him up there before sending him down to us," he said.

Ashland police arrested him on charges of driving under the influence of intoxicants, reckless driving, eluding police, two charges of first-degree criminal mischief, three charges of hit-and-run, six charges of reckless endangerment and two charges of assaulting a police officer.

Ashland police were alerted to Abunayyan's Ford sedan after it was seen driving erratically on Siskiyou Boulevard. Witnesses said Abunayyan appeared to be trying to run over pedestrians near Triangle Park at about 10:30 p.m.

Officers followed Abunayyan's car into the Safeway parking lot, where it clipped another car and nearly hit a person walking in the parking lot.

Abunayyan then headed the wrong way on Siskiyou Boulevard toward Mountain Avenue. Abunayyan rammed a Talent police car that was assisting in the chase. An Ashland patrol car also was damaged in the incident.

The chase ended after Abunayyan's car became high-centered on a dirt embankment on Clear Creek Drive. The chase lasted about 20 minutes.

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