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World

After A Case Of Mistaken ISIS Identity, UAE Issues Travel Warning

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The United Arab Emirates is advising its citizens not to wear the country's traditional dress while traveling overseas. The warning came in a tweet over the weekend from an official government account. It was posted a few days after a UAE citizen was mistaken for a member of ISIS and handcuffed at gunpoint outside of a hotel near Cleveland. Vivian Goodman of member station WKSU reports.

VIVIAN GOODMAN, BYLINE: Here's what happened - on Wednesday, the police in Avon, Ohio, received this emergency call.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: There is a male in a full headdress with multiple disposable phones pledging his allegiance or something to ISIS.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: OK.

GOODMAN: The caller described herself as the sister of the hotel clerk on duty that day. She said her sister couldn't call in herself because she was working the front desk. Soon, Avon police arrived. The whole incident was captured on police body camera. They rushed at the man standing outside the hotel dressed in a kandura, a traditional white robe.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: There he is. There he is.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: On the ground now.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Get on the ground.

GOODMAN: But minutes later, officers realized the man - 41-year-old Ahmed al-Menhali (ph), was unarmed and posed no threat. Al-Menhali has stated he's in the U.S. to receive medical care at the Cleveland Clinic.

BRYAN JENSEN: Our police, I think, operated appropriately under the circumstances they thought they were getting into.

GOODMAN: That's the mayor of Avon, Bryan Jensen.

JENSEN: And then to find out a perfectly innocent person had to go through a situation that could have been catastrophic.

GOODMAN: Avon officials have apologized. Mayor Jensen says there's an ongoing investigation looking into exactly what happened and why the emergency caller described al-Menhali as pledging allegiance to ISIS.

JENSEN: With the possibility of charges being brought against that person.

GOODMAN: Her name has not yet been released. Officials in the United Arab Emirates seem equally concerned. Saturdays tweet stressed that citizens traveling overseas should not wear traditional clothing, especially in public places. For NPR News, I'm Vivian Goodman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.