Customs seizes hajj passports

Nov. 9, 2010 at 8:03 AM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- The U.S. government reimbursed a group of Northern Virginia Muslims who missed their flight to Saudi Arabia due to a customs snafu, a spokesman says.

The 17 had saved thousands of dollars for a pilgrimage to Mecca but the UPS package containing their passports failed to arrive in time for their departure because it was seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

As a result, all but one of the pilgrims missed their outbound flight, said Raffi Uddin Ahmed, vice president of the Manassas-based Muslim Association of Virginia.

Ahmed said the group was told the customs agency would purchase replacement outbound tickets at a cost of $34,000 so the pilgrims were able to leave for Saudi Arabia Monday night.

Spokesman Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic relations told the Post he's learned of a number of incidents of Muslims' passports failing to arrive via UPS.

"We need to get to the bottom of who is flagging these packages en route, and why, and whether it's some overreaction to the recent packages coming out of Yemen," he said.

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