Nigerian charged with trying to blow up jet
(AP) - A man who claimed to be an agent of al-Qaida wascharged Saturday with trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines flighton Christmas Day as it was preparing to land in Detroit, officialssaid.
The Justice Department said 23-year-old Umar FaroukAbdulmutallab had a device containing a high explosive attached tohis body on Flight 253 from Amsterdam. As the flight nearedDetroit's airport on Friday, Abdulmutallab set it off - but itsparked a fire instead of an explosion, the government said.
A preliminary analysis of the device shows that it containedPETN, also known as pentaerythritol, according the affidavit filedin federal court in Detroit.
Abdulmutallab allegedly told passengers that his stomach wasupset, then pulled a blanket over himself, the affidavit said.Passengers then heard popping noises that sounded like fireworksand smelled smoke before at least one passenger climbed over seatsand tackled Abdulmutallab.
In Nigeria, a prominent banker said he feared that it was hisson - a former university student in London who had left Britain totravel abroad - committed the unsuccessful attack.
The father, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, told The Associated Press onSaturday he didn't know exactly where his son was but planned tospeak with Nigerian authorities.
"I believe he might have been to Yemen, but we areinvestigating to determine that," said father said.
Abdulmutallab claimed to have been instructed by al-Qaida todetonate the plane over U.S. soil, said a U.S. law enforcementofficial. But others cautioned that such claims could not beverified immediately. Another official said the U.S. had known forat least two years that that the Mutallab could have had terroristties and was on a list that includes people with known or suspectedties to a terrorist organization.
All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because theinvestigation was continuing.
London's Metropolitan Police also was working with U.S.officials, said a spokeswoman who spoke on condition of anonymityin line with department policy. A search was under way Saturday atan apartment building where Abdulmutallab is said to have lived ina posh West London neighborhood.
University College London issued a statement saying a studentnamed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab studied mechanical engineeringthere between September 2005 and June 2008. But the college said itwasn't certain the student was the same person who was on theplane.
The White House said it believed it was an attempted act ofterrorism and stricter security measures were quickly imposed onairline travel including. The incident was reminiscent of RichardReid, who tried to destroy a trans-Atlantic flight in 2001 withexplosives hidden in his shoes, but was subdued by otherpassengers.
Intelligence and anti-terrorism officials in Yemen said theywere investigating claims by the suspect that he picked up theexplosive device and instructions on how to use it in that country.The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are notauthorized to speak to the media.
Officials in the Netherlands said an initial investigationshowed that routine security procedures were followed at SchipholAirport in Amsterdam with no irregularities. Mutallab's name was onthe passenger manifesto that was forwarded and approved by U.S.authorities before takeoff.
The list that Mutallab had been on in the U.S. is maintained bythe U.S. National Counterterrorism Center and includes about550,000 names, an official said. People on that list are notnecessarily on the no-fly list, and New York congressman Peter Kingsays Abdulmutallab was not on the no-fly list. Dutch anti-terrorismauthorities said Mutallab was traveling on a U.S. visa validthrough the first half of 2010.
In response to Friday's incident, some airlines were tellingpassengers that new U.S. government security regulation prohibitthem from leaving their seats an hour before landing.
Air Canada said in a statement that new rules imposed by theTransportation Security Administration limit on-board activities bypassengers and crew in U.S. airspace. The airline said that duringthe final hour of flight passengers must remain seated. They won'tbe allowed access to carryon baggage or to have any items on theirlaps.
U.S.-bound travelers were also undergoing body searches atAmsterdam's airport, and passengers flying to the United Statesfrom London's Heathrow said they received text messages informingthem that the hand baggage allowance had been reduced to one item.
President Barack Obama was notified of the incident anddiscussed it with security officials, the White House said.Officials said he is monitoring the situation and receiving regularupdates from his vacation spot in Hawaii.
Nigeria's information minister, Dora Akunyili, condemned theattempted bombing. She said the government has opened its owninvestigation into the suspect and will work with U.S. authorities.
"We state very clearly that as a nation we abhor all forms ofviolence," Akunyili said in a statement issued Saturday.