It looks like this may have been a false alarm. Let us hope so.
Update: On MSNBC, Pete Williams says they haven’t found any explosives in his shoes yet and thinks it might be a huge misunderstanding. Supposedly al-Modadi got up to use the bathroom around 30 minutes before the flight landed; he was in there for awhile and when he came out an air marshal smelled smoke. When the marshal asked him what he was doing in the bathroom, al-Modadi supposedly said, “I was trying to light my shoes on fire.” In fact, he might have simply been having a cigarette and responding sarcastically, which I guess the marshal didn’t pick up on. Again, this is all from Williams. I’ll update when I see something contradictory. Incidentally, until a few minutes ago, MSNBC.com’s own headline for this story was “NBC News: Airline bombing foiled.” Now it’s “NBC: Passenger subdued aboard United jet.”
Update: The story at MSNBC.com has the details I just mentioned in the last update.
Update: Greta is also reporting that no explosives have been found and that the smoke in the bathroom might have been al-Modadi’s attempt to, ahem, “cover up another smell.”
Update: ABC has updated and they’re leaning towards the same explanation now as NBC. What we may be looking at here is the scariest smoke break in aviation history:
A US security official said, “it may have been a massive misunderstanding” and the diplomat’s statement may have been a “sarcastic” comment when he was confronted by two air marshals who had been told by flight attendants that smoke was coming from the lavatory.
"Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man! We shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out."
--Hugh Latimer, October 16, 1555