"The Underwear Bomber"

Attempt to Bomb Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day, 2009

Northwest Airlines Flight 253 After Attempted Terrorist Attack

Northwest Airlines Flight 253 After Attempted Terrorist Attack

The Islamist terror network al-Qaida apparantly made an attempt to attack the United States on Christmas Day, 2009. A Nigerian man named Abdulfarouk Umar Muttalab attempted to ignite an explosive device onboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 as it neared Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport on December 25, 2009. Early reports indicate Muttalab claimed a connection to al-Qaida, though later reports say he denied any such connection. However, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, identified the suspect as a man who “definitely has connections” to Al Qaeda. The suspect later informed investigatores that he obtained the explosive device and training in Yemen, which is a nation dealing with a growing al-Qaida presence.

Reports indicate that Muttalab, an engineering student at University College of London, took a flight from Nigeria to the Netherlands, where he then boarded the American plane on a route to Detroit. About 20 minutes from the Detroit airport, fellow passengers smelled smoke, and noticed that Mudallab was attempting to ignite something. A passenger jumped on Muttalab, and apparently interrupted an attempt to cause a mid-air explosion. The suspect was seen with burns to his legs, and the passenger who jumped on him also is reported to have suffered burns.

Airport and airlines security worldwide was tightened in response to this attack. U.S. officials are treating this incident as an attempted terrorist attack. President Obama, who was vacationing in Hawaii with his family, was notified by security officials.

Abdulfarouk Umar Muttalab 's father reportedly informed U.S. authorities of his son's extreme religious views. The Abdulmutallab family is Muslim. Muttalab reportedly travelled to Dubai in the Persian Gulf to pursue a second degree after graduating from University College in London. From Dubai, he apparantly journeyed to the arabian nation of Yemen.

After entering custody, Muttalab told authorities he had an extremist affiliation, and said he was directed by al-Qaida. He said that the device was obtained in Yemen, along with instructions from al-Qaida as to how to use it. Authorities have not yet confirmed his statements.

A counterterrorism official told The New York Times that his claim "may have been aspirational".

The motive for the attack was unclear. However, the attack was near the date of the eighth anniversary of the attempt of an al-Qaida member to blow up a plane using explosives hidden in his shoe. The Taliban also released a video of a captured U.S. soldier on the day of the attack. The Yemeni branch of al-Qaida recently came under attack by the Yemeni government with aid from the U.S.

The senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Pete Hoekstra, said officials in the Obama administration and officials with law-enforcement information access told him the suspect may have had contact with Anwar Al Awlaki; al-Awlaki is the former imam linked to al-Qaida, three of the 9/11 bombers, and Nidal Hasan, the suspected Fort Hood shooter, among others. Hoekstra said: "The question we'll have to raise is was this imam in Yemen influential enough to get some people to attack the US again." Hoekstra said in an interview: "The suspicion is also that" the suspect "had contact with al-Awlaki. The belief is this is a stronger connection with al-Awlaki" than Hasan had.In addition, an attack of this type (injecting chemicals into a substance to provoke a chemical explosion) has not been used in previous terrorist plots, and it is possible that the attempt was a test to see if such materials could pass through screening and how much damage the resulting blast would cause.

The Justice Department on December 26, charged Mutallab with willfully attempted to destroy or wreck an aircraft; and that he placed a destructive device in the plane.

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman read the charges to Mutallab in a conference room at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the suspect was taken for treatment of the burns suffered in the attempted plane explosion. According to the affidavit against Mutallab filed in the U.S. District Court in Detroit, an early analysis of his explosive device showed that it contained PETN, a high explosive also known as pentaerythritol, which is the same explosive material convicted used by "Shoe Bomber" Richard Reid used when he attempted to destroy a trans-Atlantic flight in 2001 with explosives hidden in his shoes.

IntelCenter, aVirginia-based organization which monitors Islamist militant messages called attention two days after the attack to a December 21, 2009 video recording from an al-Qaida operative in Yemen warning of a coming bombing in the U.S. IntelCenter's report said the al-Qaida member made that threat the week before the Christmas attack during a funeral for militants killed during an airstrike in Yemen two days earlier.

He was sentenced to four life terms plus 50 years without parole and is serving his sentence at the Supermax Federal Prison in Colorado.

Links and Resources:

United States v. Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab--scanned copy of the affidavit against Abdul Muttalab

Nigerian man charged in Christmas airliner attack--Atlanta Constitution, Dec. 27, 2009

 A Very Bourgeois Would-Be Bomber--The Atlantic, Dec. 26, 2009

Jasper Schuringa subdued alleged terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on Northwest Airlines 253-New York Daily News, Dec. 26, 2009

Sources: Terror suspect is son of bank executive, attended college--CNN, Dec. 26, 2009

'Hero' Tells How He Foiled Jet Bomb Plot --SkyNews, Dec. 26, 2009

Restrictions Rise After Terrorism Attempt--New York Times, Dec. 26, 2009

Jet passengers overpowered would-be bomber--LA Times, Dec. 25, 2009

Statement by Department of Homeland Security Press Secretary Sara Kuban--Dept. of Homeland Security Press Release, Dec. 25, 2009

Bomb Attempt on U.S.-Bound Flight : Man on Flight to Detroit Claims al Qaeda Ties; Obama Tightens Security--WSJ, December 25, 2009


See also:

Iraq War

War in Afghanistan

al-Qaida Attack in USS Cole In Yemen 2000

Saudi-Yemen Border Conflict 2009


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