THE Iraq war veteran accused of shooting five people dead and wounding six others in a crowded airport baggage claim area at Fort Lauderdale Airport in Florida has appeared before a federal court in the city.

During a 15-minute hearing, US Magistrate Judge Alicia Valle explained the charges 26-year-old Esteban Santiago faces and told him the death penalty could apply Security was tight outside the courthouse, with more than two dozen officers on duty in bulletproof vests.

Santiago, who wore a red jumpsuit and was shackled at the wrists, stomach and legs, has been in custody since the shooting on Friday. He told the judge he worked for a security firm in Anchorage, Alaska, until November.

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Valle set a detention hearing for January 17 and an arraignment hearing on January 23.