A passenger, identified as a Nigerian national Abdul Mudallad,23, ignited a small explosive device on a Northwest flight Friday from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit, Michigan. The Nigerian national, claiming extremist affiliation with a device from Yemen, suffered third-degree burns and was subdued and then treated for his injuries. The Northwest plane (parent company Delta Airlines), was an Airbus 330 with 278 passengers that landed shortly before noon in Detroit, Michigan.
Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab (born December 22, 1986, in Lagos) is a Nigerian man who allegedly tried to detonate an explosive or incendiary device on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day, December 25, 2009.
He is the son of former First Bank PLC chairman Umaru Mutallab, He attended the British School of Lome popular with wealthy nigerians and then proceeded University College London, where he was enrolled in the department of mechanical engineering from September 2005 to June 2008. Muttalab apparently visited Yemen prior to returning to Nigeria in December 2009.
From Nigeria, he travelled to Amsterdam, where he boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 253 en route to Detroit, Michigan, USA, on Christmas Day.
Passengers reported smelling smoke and saw that something in his lap was on fire. Passenger Jasper Schuringa, a Dutch citizen, jumped on Abdulmutallab, and he and other passengers subdued him as flight attendants used fire extinguishers to douse the flames. At this point, Abdulmutallab was taken toward the front of the airplane cabin, and was seen to have lost his pants due to the fire, and had burns on his legs.
Investigators allege that Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab was attempting to ignite an explosive device in an apparent attempt to destroy the plane. The criminal complaint names him as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab’s father reportedly informed U.S. authorities of his son’s extreme religious views. The Mutallab family is Muslim.
After entering custody, Mutallab told authorities he had an extremist affiliation, and said he was directed by al-Qaeda. He said that the device was obtained in Yemen, along with instructions from al-Qaeda 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-Qaeda member to blow up a plane using explosives hidden in his shoe. The Taliban also released a video of captured U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl on the day of the attack. The Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda 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-Qaeda, three of the 9/11 bombers, and Nidal Malik Hasan, the 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.