updated 1/24/2008 8:46:45 PM ET 2008-01-25T01:46:45

Two men who stowed away on a flight from Ethiopia to Dulles International Airport were being held on misdemeanor charges Thursday, immigration officials said.

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The men were found Wednesday during a security inspection of the Ethiopian Airlines jet, said Pat Reilly, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They are being held on charges of entering the United States without inspection.

They likely face deportation if they acted alone, but there could be more serious charges if investigators learn that others were involved or if the men were found to be testing security, Reilly said.

"We do not know if others are involved," she said. "If it turned out that they were smuggled into the country, there would be a criminal investigation."

The flight originated in Ethiopia, Reilly said, but she did not know if there were any stopovers where the men might have gotten on the plane.

Ethiopian Airlines' office in Alexandria, Va., was closed and not accepting messages by phone when contacted Thursday evening by The Associated Press. Ethiopian Airlines officials told WUSA-TV that the men had hidden in the plane's ceiling.

If the men got on the plane in Ethiopia, U.S. investigators can work with security officials there to determine how the breach happened, Reilly said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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