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PHILADELPHIA – A Jewish teenager trying to pray on a New York-to-Kentucky flight caused a scare Thursday when he pulled out a set of small boxes containing holy scrolls, leading the captain to divert the flight to Philadelphia, where the commuter plane was greeted by police, bomb-sniffing dogs and federal agents.

The 17-year-old on US Airways Express Flight 3079 was using tefillin, a set of small boxes containing biblical passages that are attached to leather straps, Philadelphia police Lt. Frank Vanore said.

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When used in prayer, one box is strapped to the arm while the other box is placed on the head.

“It’s something that the average person is not going to see very often, if ever,” FBI spokesman J.J. Klaver said.

The teen explained the ritual after being questioned by crew members of the flight, which had left LaGuardia Airport around 7:30 a.m. headed for Louisville and was operated by Chautauqua Airlines, authorities said.

Officials with the airline, however, said crew members “did not receive a clear response” when they talked with the teen, according to a statement issued by Republic Airways, which owns Chautauqua.

“Therefore, in the interest of everyone’s safety, the crew decided to land in Philadelphia, where a more complete investigation and follow-up with authorities would be possible,” the statement said.

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By KATHY MATHESON, Associated Press Writer Kathy Matheson, Associated Press Writer Thu Jan 21, 11:43 pm ET

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