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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 January, 2004, 07:21 GMT
Trader mistaken for terrorist
The Harris family in New York
Mr Harris (left) was celebrating his birthday
A fish-and-chip shop owner was interrogated by armed FBI agents in New York after being mistaken for a wanted terrorist.

James Harris was returning home from a family break in the US when he was separated from his wife and three children and taken off for an intense hour of questioning.

The family had spent a few days in New York to celebrate Mr Harris' 50th birthday and were travelling back on New Year's Day, as security checks were stepped up.

Agents later told Mr Harris, who is a town councillor in Caldicot, that he shared the same name and description as someone on their most wanted list.

As he tried to board the flight to Heathrow, Mr Harris had already been searched twice, once in the presence of 60 security guards, before the interrogation took place.

"The first question was a bit of a mindblower, he said 'Are you a member of any terrorist organisation?'," he said.

I think there was somebody watching me all the way back to Heathrow
James Harris

"He wanted my family background, my wife's background, places I have travelled to.

"At the end of the interview, he really said that there was a terrorist fitting my description with exactly the same name - I was a bit dumbfounded.

"My saving grace was that I hadn't visited Pakistan so I was free to go.

"After that, there was a massive armed escort and, as a family, we were split up on the aeroplane - I think there was somebody watching me all the way back to Heathrow."

Mr Harris said the ordeal had been "frightening", but said he completely understood why it had happened.

"They have got to do these things for the security of their country and I appreciate that 100%," he said.

"I think the British people have got to accept this is a way of life now - we are going to have enhanced security checks and put time on our holidays."




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