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Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up Detroit-bound plane

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by News staff
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PHOTO: News media pool reporters Peggy Agar, centre, and Corey Williams, right, brief the media after witnessing the arraignment of Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Dec. 26, 2009 where he was being treated for burns. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian, has been charged in relation to an attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound plane carrying 278 passengers.

The U.S. Justice Department charged him with willful attempt to destroy an aircraft and with placing a destructive device on an aircraft.

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman read the charges to Abdulmutallab in a conference room of an Ann Arbor, Michigan hospital Saturday, where he is being treated for burns.

An affidavit said Abdulmutallab had an explosive devise attacked to his body, and preliminary analysis of the device said it contained PETN, also known as pentaerythritol.

It was the same material used by attempted shoe bomber Richard Reid in a 2001 attempt to bring down a plane.

Abdulmutallab smiled when he was brought into the hospital conference room and had bandages on his left thumb and right wrist.

The judge asked Abdulmutallab if he understood the charges.

“Yes, I do,” came the reply in English.

The judge said a public defender would be assigned to him and there would be another hearing on Jan. 8.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the U.S. will “use all measures available to our government to ensure that anyone responsible for this attempted attack is brought to justice.”

U.S. officials have said that the suspect came to their attention in November when his father went to the U.S. embassy in Nigeria and expressed concerns that his son was radicalized.

However, the information did not put the suspect on a “no -fly list” nor was his visa to visit the U.S. revoked. It was granted in June 2008 and valid until June 2010.

Abdulmutallab is in the U.S.’s Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment database, which contains some 550.000 names. The database includes people known to be terrorists, or those suspected of having ties to a terrorist organization.

Abdulmutallab’s father said his son was a student in London, then left to travel abroad.

“I believe he might have been to Yemen, but we are investigating to determine that,” Alhaji Umaru Mutallab told The Associated Press.

Yemen, an unstable country south of Saudi Arabia, has been increasingly seen as a safe haven for al Qaeda.

Intelligence and anti-terrorism officials are investigating claims that the suspect was given the explosive device and instructions in Yemen.

The elder Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, who served as chairman of First Bank of Nigeria from 1999 through this month, is cooperating with authorities in their investigation.

University College London issued a statement Saturday saying a student identified as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, took mechanical engineering there from September 2005 to June 2008.

London’s Metropolitan Police is assisting in the investigation, U.S. officials said.

Mutallab allegedly tried to bring down a Northwest plane using an explosive device as it was making its descent on Detroit.

Although his name is not on any no-fly lists, he is reported to have popped up on counter-terrorism databases.

Smoke and fire on plane

The flight, which originated in Nigeria and had stopped in Amsterdam, was beginning its descent into the Detroit area just before noon on Friday, when passengers noticed a man attempting to use an explosive device made up of a powdery substance and liquid.

Travelers said they smelled smoke, saw a glow, and heard what sounded like firecrackers.

“It sounded like a firecracker in a pillowcase,” said Peter Smith, a passenger told reporters. “First there was a pop, and then (there) was smoke.”

The device failed, but the man had lit his thigh area on fire. Another passenger leaped over seats to put the fire out, and the flight crew assisted him in subduing the man.

Various media outlets have identified the heroic passenger as Jasper Schuringa, a Dutch filmmaker.

“Without any hesitation, I just jumped over all the seats,” Schuringa told CNN, in a story confirmed by other passengers.

“I was thinking, ‘Oh, he’s trying to blow up the plane.’ I was trying to search his body for any explosive. I took some kind of object that was already melting and smoking, and I tried to put out the fire and when I did that I was also restraining the suspect.”

Authorities in the United States believe this was an attempted act of terrorism and stricter security measures were quickly imposed on airline travel.

Air Canada and WestJet have imposed similar measures in Canada on all U.S.-bound flights.

Technology should be upgraded

Douglas Laird, the former security director at Northwest Airlines, told CTV News Channel that upgrades in technology at airports, including body scanning, is the only way to keep passengers the safest because in today’s world, metal detectors are not enough.

“You walk through a metal detector and that machine will identify metal on your person, but it fails however to identify liquids and powders,” he said in a phone interview.

He explained that body scanning, which is being tested at five Canadian airports, can catch whether a passenger is hiding something in their pockets or underneath their clothes.

He said that polls show Americans don’t want their bodies scanned, and it is up to safety authorities to “do a better job of explaining to the American flying public why it is that we need new technology.”

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Written by thecanadianheadlines

December 27, 2009 at 8:12 am

One Response

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    December 28, 2009 at 1:35 am

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