updated 1/25/2005 4:51:59 AM ET 2005-01-25T09:51:59

A man suspected of telling authorities about a possible terror threat in Boston has been detained in a Mexican border town and was being questioned about last week’s tip and his motivation for calling it in, FBI officials said.

Jose Ernesto Beltran Quinones was taken into custody Monday in Mexicali by Mexican state judicial police, Dan Dzwilewski, special agent in charge of the FBI’s San Diego division, told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Quinones, one of the 16 people sought for questioning last week about the alleged terror plot, was being questioned on behalf of the FBI, special agent Kiffa Shirley told The Associated Press.

“The first area of concern for the FBI is to resolve any pending national security threat issues, and that issue being the statement that was made that nuclear material was being brought into the United States,” Dzwilewski said. “We’re working with Mexican authorities trying to resolve that question.”

Shirley said late Monday he did not know Quinones’ nationality, age or occupation, or where he was being questioned.

Revenge motive suspected
Officials have stressed since news of the tip first broke that they doubted the credibility of the terror claims. A leading theory was that a smuggler tipped authorities to a false terror plot to exact revenge on a group of Chinese immigrants, perhaps because members failed to pay.

The tipster claimed that members of the group had talked about material supposedly called “nuclear oxide” that would follow them from Mexico to Boston. The implication was that the group was plotting to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” that spews hazardous material and can sicken or kill people.

No evidence has been found for such a plot. Still, authorities stepped up security in Boston, and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney skipped President Bush’s inauguration in Washington.

Dzwilewski said the United States would like to extradite Quinones, who Shirley said was being interviewed as part of a joint investigation by the FBI and Mexican authorities.

“We’re so pleased with the extraordinary cooperation of Mexican authorities,” Shirley said.

Over the weekend, the FBI said another person who had been wanted for questioning in relation to the alleged plot had been in federal custody for more than two months and has no terrorist connections. She was identified as Mei Xia Dong, 21, of China.

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