Saturday, December 26, 2009

Nigerian tries to blow up U.S. airliner

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 International 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.

Rep. Peter King of New York, the senior Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, who was briefed on the incident, said Abdulmutallab was known in federal counterterrorism files and may have been on the government’s list of suspicious passengers banned from flying in the United States.

King said the incident raised troubling questions about airline security. “It must be looked into” how Mudallad was able to sneak a “somewhat sophisticated device” on board, he said.

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 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.

News organizations, including, initially reported that the government had raised the terrorism alert for flights after the incident. Those reports were inaccurate; the flight alert had been at orange before the incident.

Passengers removed, rescreened
Officials said Flight 253, an Airbus 330, was carrying 278 passengers. 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 being rescreened, along with all the luggage on the flight. In addition, all passengers were interviewed, a TSA statement said.

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.

Rich Griffith, a passenger from Pontiac, Mich., said he was seated too far in the back to see what had happened. But he said he didn’t mind being detained on the plane for several hours.

“It’s frustrating if you don’t want to keep your country safe,” he said. “We can’t have what’s going on everywhere else happening here.”

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.

An interagency meeting of senior intelligence, law enforcement and security was convened out of Washington to discuss the incident and possible measures to ensure that there no similar attacks, Burton said.

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.

Accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 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.

The response to the attempted attack created an unusual tableau for people around the airport.

“I don’t ever recall seeing a plane on that runway ever before, and I pass by there frequently,” said J.P. Karas, 55, of Wyandotte, Mich., who was driving down a road near the airport when he spotted the jet, surrounded by police cars, an ambulance, a bus and some TV trucks.

Karas said that it was difficult to tell what was going on but that it looked as though the plane’s front wheel was off the runway.

By Robert Windrem of NBC News and Alex Johnson of with Jay Blackman, Catherine Corrigan, Dave Forman, Scott Foster and Kip Whitlock of NBC News. NBC station WDIV-TV of Detroit contributed to this report.

Sahara Reporters

Related story: Video report on Nigerian terrorist attempt to blow up U.S. airliner

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1 comment:

  1. Something is wrong here..An intelligence officer sitting nearby, a white powder, a black man a muslim name,= a set up! i wonder now whay amerikkka will ask from Nigeria for his release.
    This flights was not going to nigeria