Federal authorities are detaining at least one man of Egyptian origin who worked at a Middle Eastern market in Baltimore in connection with a threat that closed Interstate 95 and the Harbor and Fort McHenry tunnels after concern over a suspected terrorist plot to blow up one of the tunnels.
The shutdown caused gridlock throughout the metropolitan region as police and federal agents investigated the threat.
Federal law enforcement officials said the threat was made against an unspecified tunnel by an informant in a foreign country who said suspects were men of Egyptian origin living in the Baltimore area. The official said investigators had several names, but had no arrest warrants.
The informant's information was uncorroborated, the official said. He is being detained in an unspecified foreign county because of potential immigration violations. It was unclear whether the man was a United States citizen, the sources said.
The investigation has been ongoing for the past two or three days, but the decision to close the tunnels was made by the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, who apparently were concerned that the suspects may act as word of the investigation got out.
According to the source who has been briefed on the investigation, the detained man is associated with Koko Market in the 6000 block of Eastern Avenue in Highlandtown. There are unconfirmed reports on the WJZ-TV Web site that the plot involved taking a bomb-laden delivery truck from the market into a tunnel, where it would be detonated.
Authorities reopened portions of I-95 and the Harbor and Fort McHenry tunnels about 1:30 p.m.
The federal Department of Homeland Security and FBI issued a joint statement saying the two agencies last week shared information with state and local law enforcement officials about the potential threat. The agencies said the threat's credibility was undetermined and did not specify a tunnel in the Baltimore area.
The agencies said they support whatever precautions local and state authorities take to deal with the potential threats while attempting to secure the public safety.
The agencies said their investigation into the threat is continuing.
Said a federal law enforcement official: "We did receive some threat information. They're in the process of working it through. We get a lot of this stuff. Each time you get it, you have to work it through until you can nail it down."
The area most immediately affected during the closures was I-95 near the tunnels and Key Highway, which is also near the Maryland Port. Police were seen stopping trucks and vans and searching with dogs. At the Fort McHenry Tunnel, police barricaded lanes and then ushered the public out of an office near the tolls.
The federal law enforcement official said they investigate carefully before shutting down major highways, Newsday reported.