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FBI unit reviews plane laser attacks

Appeals to public for information

NEW YORK — The FBI announced on Friday it has assigned its Joint Terrorism Task Force to lead a probe of laser attacks on the cockpits of two planes approaching LaGuardia Airport this week, inviting help from the public as well to fight a growing threat against the nation’s air transportation.

“The FBI is asking anyone with information about any of these dangerous laser incidents to pick up the phone and call us,” George Venizelos, head of the FBI’s New York office, said in a release. “Our paramount concern is the safety of aircraft passengers and crew.”

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The announcement came along with a report that laser attacks against inbound flights at New York airports have increased 17 percent this year, a rising threat because lasers can temporarily or permanently blind a pilot and crew, the FBI said.

The FBI said Friday a reward is available for anyone providing information leading to arrests in the Tuesday evening attacks.

The FBI said the first attack occurred when a Shuttle America cockpit was illuminated by a green laser on its final approach to LaGuardia at 7:35 p.m. Tuesday. The FBI said the crew reported that the laser appeared to originate about a half-mile west of the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, striking the plane when it was 2,000 feet above ground, about 6 miles from the runway.

The second case occurred three hours later when a private aircraft reported a green laser 2 miles southwest of LaGuardia at 10:37 p.m. as it headed eastbound over the Triborough Bridge.

The FBI said the laser originated near Broadway and Steinway Street in Queens.

No injuries were reported in either case, though the FBI noted that several commercial pilots earlier this year had significant injuries including a burned retina.

The investigation is being led by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes more than 50 local, state, and federal agencies.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced two years ago that it would fine those who point lasers at planes up to $11,000 per violation.

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