CHICAGO, Il. – A stampede to exit a CTA bus in downtown Chicago left one person dead and more than a dozen injured Wednesday morning after passengers mistook a Muslim man’s putrid flatulence for a chemical weapon attack.
“It was absolute pandemonium,” said Myra Bailey, a thirty-seven year-old single mother of two who was injured during the ensuing panic. Bailey said she takes the bus to her nursing job at Northwestern Memorial Hospital every morning and has never encountered anything like what transpired Wednesday morning. “Working in the ER, I see a lot,” a visibly shaken Bailey told CBS Chicago. “But never in my life have I smelled anything like the odor that was on that bus.”
The incident occurred shortly after 8:30 a.m. Wednesday morning when authorities say twenty-six year-old Muhammed al-Qubaisi caught the northbound CTA bus near Cottage Grove. Shortly before boarding, authorities say al-Qubaisi, who is Muslim, consumed nearly six helpings of Dhal, a popular Pakistani dish consisting of rice and lentils that has been known to cause excessive gas. “This was a deliberate and premeditated act,” Sergeant Monica Hernandez, a spokesperson for the Chicago Police Department, told reporters.
According to witnesses, al-Qubaisi was sweating profusely as he took a vacant seat towards the rear of the bus. “I remember glancing over my shoulder and seeing this guy who was just drenched in sweat,” recalled Azad Mustafa. “I didn’t want to stare but he was belching loudly.” The fifty-one year-old Kurdish shoe salesman said al-Qubaisi looked uneasy and appeared to be swaying in his seat. “Suddenly there was this horrible sound and the air became very hot and thick. I remember smelling something ripe and that’s when I lost consciousness.” Mustafa later told CBS Chicago that the incident gave him flashbacks to the 1988 Halabja chemical attack in southern Kurdistan, of which he is a survivor.
A spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed that the incident is being investigated as a possible act of terrorism. “What we know at this point is that Muhammed al-Qubaisi was born in Afghanistan and emigrated to the United States with his family in May of 1993 when he was three years old,” announced FBI Special Agent Richard Ross during a joint press conference with the Chicago Police Department. “We have uncovered evidence which shows that Mr. al-Qubaisi traveled to Saudi Arabia on two occasions: once at the age of six and once more at the age of nine.”
Citing an ongoing investigation, Special Agent Ross would not comment on the nature of Mr. al-Qubaisi’s visits to Saudi Arabia or whether the FBI believes he became radicalized during his stay in the Islamic Country. Muhammed al-Qubaisi remains in custody on a $1 million bond.