Drunken Burnsville man’s threats lead to Amtrak evacuation

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH and MARY LYNN SMITH
  • Star Tribune staff w r iters
  • February 17, 2011 - 9:53 AM

More than 100 Amtrak passengers were forced into the cold and dark of a western Montana blizzard after an intoxicated Burnsville man allegedly indicated he had a bomb on the train.

The westbound passengers were taken to an emergency shelter and waited 11 hours before the train was declared bomb-free and resumed its trip.

After Hussein Abdi Hassan, 24, indicated to deputies who were removing him from the train that he had left a bomb in his baggage, the travelers were forced to trudge across a frozen pond, according to charges.

Winds gusting up to 90 miles an hour whipped the blowing snow into drifts. Elderly passengers who couldn't make the 75-yard walk had to wait until deputies could drive through fields and across the tracks to escort them to buses that would take them to a nearby middle school.

Three people were hurt while getting off the train and taken to hospitals, according to the criminal complaint. And passengers who rely on insulin had to leave their medicine behind in their bags because the train was in a lockdown.

Hassan remained in a Montana jail Wednesday in lieu of $100,000 bail. He was charged with felony criminal endangerment and misdemeanor disorderly conduct and pleaded not guilty. His next court appearance is set for March 9.

The Empire Builder was halted about 8 p.m. Monday on its run from Chicago through Minnesota to Seattle and Portland, Ore.

Steve Warfield, FBI special agent in Minneapolis, said the incident apparently "has nothing to do with anything going on here [involving terrorism]. It appears to be [little more than] somebody getting out of hand and maybe getting drunk or something like that."

According to the charges:

A man called the Glacier County Sheriff's Office for help in removing an intoxicated man from the train at the depot in Browning, Mont.

A deputy took Hassan from the train, noting a "strong odor of alcoholic beverage" coming from the passenger's breath as he spoke. Hassan's eyes were bloodshot, and he was unsteady on his feet, the deputy added.

While being escorted off the train and on the way to jail, Hassan said he had paid to get to Seattle for his sister's graduation.

Hassan then asked where his bag was. Told that he did not leave the train with a bag, Hassan laughed and said, "Damn fools, all of you. ... You did not find my bag? ... No one will survive on that train." He then resumed laughing.

Hassan told the deputy that the bag held something dangerous and indicated it was a bomb.

Amtrak was notified of Hassan's statements, prompting the train to be stopped in a field between Browning and East Glacier before its evacuation.

A bomb squad from a nearby Air Force base searched the train for more than eight hours and found nothing suspicious. The passengers returned to the train before dawn, but the trip was further delayed for a few hours because Amtrak had to bring in a new crew after the initial crew surpassed its work-hour limit, said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

The train search also held up at least 50 freight trains, said BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas. BNSF property was also searched.

Star Tribune staff writer James Walsh and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788

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