Nigerian who allegedly tried to ignite powder on flight claims al-Qaida ties
Incident in the air (Dec. 25, 2009) – A Nigerian man allegedly tried to light a powdery substance on a Northwest flight in what officials said was a potential terrorist attack. NBCs Robert Windrem reports. (03:50)
By Robert Windrem of NBC News and Alex Johnson of MSNBC.com with NBC station WDIV-TV of Detroit
MSNBC.com and NBC News
December 25, 2009
ROMULUS, Mich. – A Nigerian man claiming ties to al-Qaida tried to light a powder aboard a commercial jetliner before it landed Friday in Detroit in what senior U.S. officials called an attempted act of terrorism.
“He appears to have had some kind of incendiary device he tried to ignite,” a senior U.S. official told NBC News. Other officials said the explosive device was a mixture of powder and liquid, which failed when the passenger tried to detonate it during the plane’s descent into Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.
Two people noticed the attempted attack, and a third person jumped on the man and subdued him, an airline official told NBC News. The man was being treated at the burn unit of the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, officials said.
Federal officials identified the man as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, of Nigeria, who was traveling one way, without a return ticket. …
Abdulmutallab told investigators that he wanted to set off a bomb over the United States and claimed to be connected to al-Qaida, the terrorism network responsible for the attacks that killed more than 3,000 people in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, counterterrorism officials said.
A counterterrorism official said Abdulmutallab, who was subdued by the crew of Northwest Air Lines Flight 253 from Amsterdam, left Lagos, Nigeria, on Thursday and boarded the flight in Amsterdam on Friday.
The timing of the attempted attack could be significant. It was eight years ago this week that a similar attempted attack was launched by a British member of al-Qaida [Richard Reid] who tried to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami by igniting explosives in his shoes. And the attempted attack comes on the same day that the Taliban released a video of a U.S. soldier it is holding captive in Afghanistan [more information here on this site]. …
Passengers removed, rescreened
There was nothing out of the ordinary until Flight 253, an Airbus 330 carrying 278 passengers, was on final approach to Detroit. Although the jet bore the insignia of Delta Airlines, it was operated by Northwest.
Then came the disturbance in the passenger cabin, and that is when the pilot declared an emergency, said Elizabeth Isham Cory, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration. Cory said in an e-mail message. The plane landed without incident at 11:51 a.m. ET.
The Transportation Security Administration reported that the plane had been taken to a remote area of Detroit Metropolitan Airport and that all passengers had left the plane and were rescreened, along with all the luggage on the flight. In addition, all passengers were interviewed, a TSA statement said, before they were allowed to go on their way.
Syed Jafri, a U.S. citizen who was on the plane flying from the United Arab Emirates, said he was seated three rows behind the passenger and saw a glow and noticed the smell of smoke. Then, he said, “a young man behind me jumped on him.
“Next thing you know, there was a lot of panic, Jafri said.
President Barack Obama, who is on vacation in Hawaii, was informed of the incident Friday morning by his National Security Council staff, said Bill Burton, a spokesman for the White House. …
U.S. counterterrorism officials are particularly concerned in light of the 2006 London airline plot, in which British and Pakistani nationals conspired to carry out multiple suicide bombings on board trans-Atlantic flights.
In addition, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and his cousin Ramzi Yousef were accused of plotting in 1995 to take down multiple airliners over the Pacific Ocean using explosive devices hidden in airliner lavatories. …
Topical reports on this site
Terrorist Political Football (Feb. 8, 2010)
Underwear Bomb: No Smoking Gun (Jan. 3, 2010)
Obama Fires Missiles into Yemen (Dec. 19, 2009)
Chuck Hagel on National Defense (Sept. 3, 2009)
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