US files charges against Nigerian terrorist suspect

Attempt to blow up a plane

US files charges against Nigerian terrorist suspect

Will Willow, left, of the U.S. Marshal Service and Sgt. Michael Dillard of the University of Michigan hospital address the media outside the hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday. AP

The US Department of Justice said that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, had boarded the plane in Amsterdam, and tried near the end of the nine-hour-flight to set off an explosion using PETN, also known as pentaerythritol, a high explosive.

The charges were brought in a make-shift court session at the University of Michigan Hospital, where the suspect was being treated for burns. He had bandages on his hands, spoke in English, and told the district attorney that he could not afford to pay for an attorney, according to a pool reporter who attended the session.

The explosive material  PETN is similar to that used in the bombing attempt by the so-called shoe bomber in December 2001, Richard Reid.
Fellow passengers rushed to subdue the terrorist suspect after they heard popping sounds and saw smoke and fire coming from Abdulmutallab's seat.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who boarded Northwest Flight 253 in Amsterdam, was charged with attempting to destroy it with a "high explosive" and placing a destructive device on the plane, said a statement by the Justice Department.
The charges have been framed against him in an affidavit filed in support of a federal criminal complaint.
A preliminary FBI analysis found that the device contained PETN, known as pentaerythritol, a high explosive substance. Further analysis is ongoing, the statement said.

In addition, FBI agents recovered what appeared 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 US 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," he said yesterday.

Abdulmutallab, born on December 22, 1986, was scheduled to make his initial court appearance in the District Court in Detroit later today, the Department of Justice said.
According to the affidavit, the Nigerian national set off the device when the flight was approaching Detroit Metropolitan Airport. "It 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 aircraft landed shortly thereafter, and the young man was taken into custody by Customs and Border Patrol officers.
He required medical treatment and was transported to the University of Michigan Medical Centre after the plane's arrival.
Interviews of all of the passengers and crew of Flight revealed that prior to the incident, Abdulmutallab went to bathroom for approximately 20 minutes, according to the affidavit. Upon returning to his seat, he stated that his stomach was upset, and he pulled a blanket over himself.
Passengers then heard popping noises similar to firecrackers, smelled an odour, and some observed his pants leg and the wall of the airplane on fire. Passengers and crew then subdued him and used blankets and fire extinguishers to put out the flames.
Passengers reported that Abdulmutallab was calm and lucid throughout. On being asked by a flight attendant what he had in his pocket, he replied: "explosive device", the affidavit said.

British police have searched Abdulmutallab's apartment in London's West End, near Oxford Circus.
US justice officials, who interviewed passengers and crew of Flight 253 afterwards, said it appeared Abdulmutallab had gone to the bathroom for about 20 minutes. When he returned to his seat, he complained of stomach ache and pulled a blanket over his lap.
"Passengers then heard popping noises similar to firecrackers,smelled an odor, and some observed Abdulmutallabs pants leg and the wall of the airplane on fire," the statement said.
"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'," justice officials said.
FBI agents also recovered apparent remnants of a syringe from the vicinity of Abdulmutallab's seat, believed to have been part of the device, justice officials said in a statement.

The federal criminal charges focussed on Abdulmutallab's alleged attempt to destroy the aircraft and on his placing a destructive device on the aircraft.
Abdulmutallab, who suffered burn wounds and was treated in hospital.

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