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TSA: Man at Philly airport had fireworks, flash powder in backpack

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Posted at 12:24 PM, Mar 29, 2012
and last updated 2012-03-29 12:35:01-04

By the CNN Wire Staff

PHILADELPHIA (CNN) - A 29-year-old man was arrested Thursday after screeners at the Philadelphia airport found flash powder and fireworks in his backpack, the Transportation Security Administration said.

A bomb squad was dispatched to the scene, said Philadelphia police spokeswoman Christine O'Brien. But there was "no early indication of terrorism," a federal law enforcement official said.

The man, from Dallas, Pennsylvania, was headed to San Francisco on a United Airlines flight but never got on the plane. He was stopped by TSA screeners after "it was determined that (his) carry-on bag contained several prohibited items including a water bottle filled with flash powder and M-80 fireworks," according to a TSA statement.

The man is in the custody of the Philadelphia Police, the statement added.

Joe Sullivan, Philadelphia police counter-terrorism inspector, said the plastic bottle was wrapped in black tape.

"He said he was experimenting with the materials for a business he was starting. He said forgot they were in his backpack. He told us he's self-employed in sales," Sullivan said.

The man was dressed in casual clothes, Sullivan said, and he had checked luggage but there was nothing of interest in those bags.

The bomb squad responded in minutes, he added. The bottle was removed and all of the material was being tested.

The incident occurred at before 6 a.m. at a TSA checkpoint serving terminals D and E, said Victoria Lupica, spokeswoman for Philadelphia International Airport.

The checkpoint was closed down immediately after the item was detected, and passengers were diverted to terminal C, she said. The checkpoint reopened at 6:18 a.m., and normal airport operations resumed, she said.

Aircraft operations were not affected, Lupica said.

CNN's Susan Candiotti and Chris Dignam contributed to this report.