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Monday, 28 December, 2009 1:45 PM

Nigerian National Charged With Attempting to Destroy Northwest Airlines Aircraft


The McNamara Terminal at Detroit Metropolitan Airport

WASHINGTON -- A 23-year-old Nigerian man was charged in a federal criminal complaint today with attempting to destroy a Northwest Airlines aircraft on its final approach to Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Christmas Day, and with placing a destructive device on the aircraft.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, a Nigerian national, boarded Northwest Flight 253 in Amsterdam, Netherlands on December 24, 2009 and had a device attached to his body. As the flight was approaching Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Abdulmutallab set off the device, which resulted in a fire and what appears to have been an explosion. Abdulmutallab was then subdued and restrained by the passengers and flight crew. The airplane landed shortly thereafter, and he was taken into custody by Customs and Border Patrol officers.

A preliminary FBI analysis found that the device contained PETN, also known as pentaerythritol, a high explosive. Further analysis is ongoing. In addition, FBI agents recovered what appear to be the remnants of the syringe from the vicinity of Abdulmutallab's seat, believed to have been part of the device.

"This alleged attack on a U.S. airplane on Christmas Day shows that we must remain vigilant in the fight against terrorism at all times," Attorney General Eric Holder said. "Had this alleged plot to destroy an airplane been successful, scores of innocent people would have been killed or injured. We will continue to investigate this matter vigorously, and we will use all measures available to our government to ensure that anyone responsible for this attempted attack is brought to justice."

Abdulmutallab required medical treatment, and was transported to the University of Michigan Medical Center after the plane landed. He will make his initial court appearance later today.

Interviews of all of the passengers and crew of Flight 253 revealed that prior to the incident, Abdulmutallab went to the bathroom for approximately twenty minutes, according to the affidavit. Upon returning to his seat, Abdulmutallab stated that his stomach was upset, and he pulled a blanket over himself. Passengers then heard popping noises similar to firecrackers, smelled an odor, and some observed Abdulmutallab's pants leg and the wall of the airplane on fire. Passengers and crew then subdued Abdulmutallab and used blankets and fire extinguishers to put out the flames. Passengers reported that Abdulmutallab was calm and lucid throughout. One flight attendant asked him what he had had in his pocket, and he replied "explosive device."

These prosecutions are being handled by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Michigan, with assistance from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department's National Security Division.

The investigation is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Customs and Border Protection, and the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
The public is reminded that criminal complaints contain mere allegations and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice


Statement by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano

WASHINGTON -- "I am grateful to the passengers and crew aboard Northwest Flight 253 who reacted quickly and heroically to an incident that could have had tragic results. The Department of Homeland Security immediately put additional screening measures into place -- for all domestic and international flights -- to ensure the continued safety of the traveling public. We are also working closely with federal, state and local law enforcement on additional security measures, as well as our international partners on enhanced security at airports and on flights.

The American people should continue their planned holiday travel and, as always, be observant and aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious behavior or activity to law enforcement officials.

Passengers flying from international locations to U.S. destinations may notice additional security measures in place. These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same thing everywhere. Due to the busy holiday travel season, both domestic and international travelers should allot extra time for check-in."

Source: Department of Homeland Security

Transportation Security Administration


Delta Air Lines Issues Statement on Northwest Flight 253

ATLANTA -- Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) today issued a statement regarding the incident onboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 bound for Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport from Amsterdam.

"Upon approach to Detroit, a passenger caused a disturbance onboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253. The passenger was subdued immediately and the crew requested that law enforcement meet the flight upon arrival. The flight, operated by Northwest using an Airbus 330-300 aircraft with 278 passengers onboard, landed safely. The passenger was taken into custody and questioned by law enforcement authorities. Delta is cooperating fully with authorities and additional questions should be directed to law enforcement officials who are leading the investigation."

Source: Delta Air Lines


AJC Lauds Courage of Crew and Passengers on Terror Flight

NEW YORK -- The American Jewish Committee praised the crew and passengers traveling on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit who prevented a bombing attack by an alleged Al Qaeda operative. The plane landed safely after the terrorist, Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian national said to be studying in London, was subdued.

"As we approach the end of a decade defined by the experience of 9/11, this attack - thankfully foiled through the sheer courage of those on board the plane - is a painful reminder that the struggle against Islamist terrorism continues," said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

Harris said that while Al Qaeda has been dealt a significant blow in Iraq, it continues to operate elsewhere in the Islamic world, in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, where Abdulmutallab is said to have collected his device. "Americans will be struck that the massacre at Fort Hood, which occurred in November, was carried out by an army officer who was in close contact with an Al Qaeda cleric also based in Yemen," Harris said. "There will be similar concerns over the fact that Abdulmutallab was allowed to board in Amsterdam with a valid US visa, despite appearing in a database listing those with significant terrorist connections."

Harris urged governments, intelligence services and airlines to review security procedures in the wake of the foiled attack. "We came perilously close to a terrible massacre on Christmas Day. We need to know why Abdulmutallab was able to board the plane carrying explosives and how similar assaults will be prevented in the future on the ground, and not in the air," Harris said.

Harris said the attempted attack was another display of the violent jihadi ideology associated with Al Qaeda. "Theirs is an ideology that seeks to destroy the freedoms of democratic societies. When executed, it does not discriminate between men and women, non-Muslims and Muslims, those steeped in riches and those mired in poverty. That is why the jihadis are the enemy of all of us."

Source: American Jewish Committee




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