Northwest Airlines Flight 253
Northwest Airlines Flight 253 was an international passenger flight from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in Haarlemmermeer
Haarlemmermeer is a municipality in the Netherlands, in the province of North Holland. It is a polder, consisting of land reclaimed from water, and the name Haarlemmermeer means Haarlem's Lake, still referring to the body of water from which the region was reclaimed in the 19th century.Its main...

, Netherlands, to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport
Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport
Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport , usually called Detroit Metro Airport, Metro Airport locally, or simply DTW, is a major international airport covering in Romulus, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. It is Michigan's busiest airport....

 in Romulus, Michigan
Romulus, Michigan
Romulus is a suburban city of Metro Detroit, located in Wayne County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 23,989 at the 2010 census, an increase from 22,979 in 2000. Romulus is home to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport and a General Motors plant that opened in 1976...

, United States. The flight was the target of a failed alleged al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

 bombing attempt on Christmas Day, December 25, 2009, in which a passenger tried to set off plastic explosive
Plastic explosive
Plastic explosive is a specialised form of explosive material. It is a soft and hand moldable solid material. Plastic explosives are properly known as putty explosives within the field of explosives engineering....

s sewn to his underwear. There were 290 people on board the plane, which was operated by Northwest Airlines
Northwest Airlines
Northwest Airlines, Inc. was a major United States airline founded in 1926 and absorbed into Delta Air Lines by a merger approved on October 29, 2008, making Delta the largest airline in the world...


The suspected bomber in the "Christmas Day bombing attempt" was 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab , popularly referred to as the "Underwear Bomber", is a suspected terrorist who attempted to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear while on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253, en route from Amsterdam to Detroit, Michigan, on December 25,...

, who had concealed plastic explosives in his underwear but failed to detonate them properly, resulting in flames and popping noises. A Dutch passenger, Jasper Schuringa, tackled and restrained him and put out the fire with the aid of others. Abdulmutallab was then handcuffed while the pilot safely landed the plane. In all, three people were injured: Abdulmutallab, Schuringa, and one other passenger. Upon landing in Detroit, Abdulmutallab was arrested and taken to a hospital for treatment of his burns. On December 28, 2009, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is a militant Islamist organization, primarily active in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. It was named for al-Qaeda, and says it is subordinate to that group and its now-deceased leader Osama bin Laden, a Saudi citizen whose father was born in Yemen...

 (AQAP) claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing. On January 6, 2010, a federal grand jury
Grand jury
A grand jury is a type of jury that determines whether a criminal indictment will issue. Currently, only the United States retains grand juries, although some other common law jurisdictions formerly employed them, and most other jurisdictions employ some other type of preliminary hearing...

An indictment , in the common-law legal system, is a formal accusation that a person has committed a crime. In jurisdictions that maintain the concept of felonies, the serious criminal offence is a felony; jurisdictions that lack the concept of felonies often use that of an indictable offence—an...

 Abdulmutallab on six criminal charges, including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted murder
Attempted murder
Attempted murder is a crime in England and Wales and Northern Ireland.-Today:In English criminal law, attempted murder is the crime of more than merely preparing to commit unlawful killing and at the same time having a specific intention to cause the death of human being under the Queen's Peace...


Reports indicated that the U.S. had received intelligence regarding a planned attack by a Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

-based Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

n man. While describing security measures taken by U.S. and foreign governments in the immediate aftermath of the attack, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano
Janet Napolitano
Janet Napolitano is the third and current United States Secretary of Homeland Security, serving in the administration of President Barack Obama. She is the fourth person to hold the position, which was created after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A member of the Democratic Party, she was the 21st...

, stated that "once the incident occurred, the system worked." However, she also cited "the actions of the passengers and the crew on this flight" to show "why that system is so important." After heavy criticism, she stated the following day that the system "failed miserably", this time referring to the fact that Abdulmutallab had been able to board the flight with an explosive device. U.S. President Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

 called the U.S.'s failure to prevent the bombing attempt "totally unacceptable", and ordered an investigation. On April 6, 2010, it was reported that President Obama had authorized the targeted killing
Targeted killing
Targeted killing is the deliberate, specific targeting and killing, by a government or its agents, of a supposed terrorist or of a supposed "unlawful combatant" who is not in that government's custody...

 of al-Awlaki. Al Awlaki was killed on September 30, 2011.

Getting on Flight 253

On Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve refers to the evening or entire day preceding Christmas Day, a widely celebrated festival commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth that takes place on December 25...

, December 24, 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian, boarded Virgin Nigeria Flight 804 at Accra Airport in Accra
Accra is the capital and largest city of Ghana, with an urban population of 1,658,937 according to the 2000 census. Accra is also the capital of the Greater Accra Region and of the Accra Metropolitan District, with which it is coterminous...

, Ghana
Ghana , officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located in West Africa. It is bordered by Côte d'Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south...

 and arrived at Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos
Lagos is a port and the most populous conurbation in Nigeria. With a population of 7,937,932, it is currently the third most populous city in Africa after Cairo and Kinshasa, and currently estimated to be the second fastest growing city in Africa...

, Nigeria. Eight days earlier at the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines office in Accra
Accra is the capital and largest city of Ghana, with an urban population of 1,658,937 according to the 2000 census. Accra is also the capital of the Greater Accra Region and of the Accra Metropolitan District, with which it is coterminous...

, Ghana
Ghana , officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located in West Africa. It is bordered by Côte d'Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south...

, he had paid $2,831 in cash for his Lagos-Amsterdam-Detroit round-trip ticket with a January 8, 2010, return date. Abdulmutallab left Lagos on Christmas Eve at 11:00 p.m. aboard KLM Flight 588, a Boeing 777
Boeing 777
The Boeing 777 is a long-range, wide-body twin-engine jet airliner manufactured by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. It is the world's largest twinjet and is commonly referred to as the "Triple Seven". The aircraft has seating for over 300 passengers and has a range from , depending on model...

 bound for Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. In Amsterdam, on Christmas Day, Abdulmutallab checked in for Northwest Airlines Flight 253 to Detroit with only carry-on luggage. On March 24, 2011, the Associated Press
Associated Press
The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...

reported that Abdulmutallab chose to attack Detroit because the plane ticket there was the least expensive out of tickets to potential targets, which included Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

 and Houston. Initially, it was rumored that Abdulmutallab tried to fly to Detroit because it was a major hub of the U.S. automotive industry
Automotive industry in the United States
The American automobile industry began in the 1890s and rapidly evolved into the largest automotive producer in the world through the use of mass-production. The United States was the world's leader amongst motor vehicles main manufacturers many dozens years...


Pre-boarding event

A couple, Kurt and Lori Haskell, said that while waiting to board Flight 253 at Schiphol Airport, they saw a "poor-looking black teenager around 16 or 17" who Kurt Haskell claims was Abdulmutallab with a second man, who was "sharp-dressed", possibly of Indian descent, around 50 years old, and who spoke "in an American accent similar to my own."

According to Lori Haskell, the second man told the ticket agent: "We need to get this man on the plane. He doesn't have a passport
A passport is a document, issued by a national government, which certifies, for the purpose of international travel, the identity and nationality of its holder. The elements of identity are name, date of birth, sex, and place of birth....

." The ticket agent said nobody was allowed to board without a passport. The well-dressed man replied: "We do this all the time; he's from Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

." Lori Haskell said the two were then directed down a corridor, to talk to a manager. "We never saw him again until he tried to blow up our plane," Haskell said of Abdulmutallab.

Only U.S. citizens are permitted to board international flights to the U.S. without passports, and even then only if the airline confirms their identity and citizenship, said a spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is a federal law enforcement agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security charged with regulating and facilitating international trade, collecting import duties, and enforcing U.S. regulations, including trade, customs and immigration. CBP is the...

 (CBP). A CBP official and spokesman confirmed there were not any Sudanese refugees on the plane. The Dutch counter-terror agency said that Abdulmutallab presented a valid Nigerian passport and U.S. entry visa when he boarded Flight 253, and after reviewing more than 200 hours of security camera recordings, did not find any indication that he had accomplices at the airport or that he acted suspiciously there.

Haskell suggested authorities should, "Put the video out there to prove I'm wrong." Federal agents later said they were trying to identify and find the well-dressed man. U.S. authorities had initially discounted the passenger accounts, but agents later said there was a growing belief that the man played a role in making sure Abdulmutallab "did not get cold feet".

Bombing attempt

Flight 253, a Northwest Airlines Airbus A330-323E
Airbus A330
The Airbus A330 is a wide-body twin-engine jet airliner made by Airbus, a division of EADS. Versions of the A330 have a range of and can accommodate up to 335 passengers in a two-class layout or carry of cargo....

A twinjet or twin jet is a jet aircraft powered by two engines. Such configuration of an aircraft is the most popular today for commercial airliners, for fighters, and many other kinds, because while offering safety from a single engine failure, it is also acceptably fuel-efficient.-Aircraft...

, registered N820NW, with 279 passengers, 8 flight attendants, and 3 pilots aboard, left Amsterdam around 8:45 am local time. The plane was scheduled to arrive in Detroit at 11:40 a.m. EST
Eastern Time Zone
The Eastern Time Zone of the United States and Canada is a time zone that falls mostly along the east coast of North America. Its UTC time offset is −5 hrs during standard time and −4 hrs during daylight saving time...

, and was painted in Delta Air Lines' livery
Aircraft livery
Aircraft livery is a paint scheme applied to an aircraft, generally to fuselage, wings, empennage , or jet engines. Most airlines have a standard paint scheme for their aircraft fleet, usually prominently displaying the airline logo or name. From time to time special liveries are introduced, for...

, as Northwest was a subsidiary of Delta at the time.

Witnesses reported that as the plane approached Detroit, Abdulmutallab went into the plane's lavatory for about 20 minutes. After returning to his seat at 19A (near the fuel tanks and wing, and against the skin of the plane), he complained that he had an upset stomach. He was then seen pulling a blanket over himself.

About 20 minutes before the plane landed, on its final descent, he secretly ignited a small explosive device
Explosive device
An explosive device is device that relies on the exothermic reaction of an explosive material to provide an extremely sudden and violent release of energy. Explosive devices have applications as demolition devices and as weapons in the military....

 consisting of a mix of plastic explosive powder and acid
An acid is a substance which reacts with a base. Commonly, acids can be identified as tasting sour, reacting with metals such as calcium, and bases like sodium carbonate. Aqueous acids have a pH of less than 7, where an acid of lower pH is typically stronger, and turn blue litmus paper red...

. Abdulmutallab apparently had a packet of the plastic explosive sewn to his underwear, and injected liquid acid from a syringe
A syringe is a simple pump consisting of a plunger that fits tightly in a tube. The plunger can be pulled and pushed along inside a cylindrical tube , allowing the syringe to take in and expel a liquid or gas through an orifice at the open end of the tube...

 into the packet to cause a chemical reaction
Chemical reaction
A chemical reaction is a process that leads to the transformation of one set of chemical substances to another. Chemical reactions can be either spontaneous, requiring no input of energy, or non-spontaneous, typically following the input of some type of energy, such as heat, light or electricity...

. While there was an explosion and fire, the device failed to detonate properly. Passengers heard popping noises resembling firecracker
A firecracker is a small explosive device primarily designed to produce a large amount of noise, especially in the form of a loud bang; any visual effect is incidental to this goal. They have fuses, and are wrapped in a heavy paper casing to contain the explosive compound...

s, smelled an odor, and saw the suspect's pants leg and the wall of the plane on fire.

Although there were not any air marshal
Sky marshal
A sky marshal is an undercover law enforcement or counter terrorist agent on board a commercial aircraft to counter aircraft hijackings...

s on the flight, several passengers and crew noticed the attack. A passenger seated on the far side of the same row, Jasper Schuringa from the Netherlands, saw Abdulmutallab sitting and shaking, and tackled and overpowered him. Schuringa saw the suspect's pants were open, and that he was holding a burning object between his legs. "I pulled the object from him and tried to extinguish the fire with my hands and threw it away," said Schuringa, who suffered burns to his hands. Meanwhile, flight attendants extinguished the fire with a fire extinguisher and blankets, and a passenger removed the partially melted, smoking syringe from Abdulmutallab's hand.
Schuringa grabbed the suspect, and pulled him to the business class area at the front of the plane. A passenger reported that Abdulmutallab, though burned "quite severely" on his leg, seemed "very calm," and like a "normal individual." Schuringa stripped off the suspect's clothes to check for other explosives or weapons, and he and a crew member handcuffed Abdulmutallab with plastic handcuffs. "He was staring into nothing" and shaking, said Schuringa. Passengers applauded as Schuringa walked back to his seat. The suspect was isolated from other passengers until after the plane landed. A flight attendant asked Abdulmutallab what he had in his pocket, and the suspect replied: "Explosive device." When the attack triggered a fire indicator light within the cockpit
A cockpit or flight deck is the area, usually near the front of an aircraft, from which a pilot controls the aircraft. Most modern cockpits are enclosed, except on some small aircraft, and cockpits on large airliners are also physically separated from the cabin...

, the pilot requested rescue and law enforcement. The plane made an emergency landing at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport in the Downriver
Downriver is the unofficial name for a collection of 18 suburban cities and townships in Wayne County, Michigan south of Detroit along the western shore of the Detroit River....

 Detroit community of Romulus, Michigan
Romulus, Michigan
Romulus is a suburban city of Metro Detroit, located in Wayne County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 23,989 at the 2010 census, an increase from 22,979 in 2000. Romulus is home to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport and a General Motors plant that opened in 1976...

, just before 1:00 p.m. local time.

The Toronto Star
Toronto Star
The Toronto Star is Canada's highest-circulation newspaper, based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Its print edition is distributed almost entirely within the province of Ontario...

reported that the plane's flight route would have had it over Canadian airspace when the attempted bombing occurred. Representatives of two pilot associations told the Star that Detroit Metro airport would have been the nearest suitable airport at which to attempt an emergency landing.

While the plane itself suffered relatively little damage, the suspect incurred first and second degree burns to his hands, as well as second degree burns to his right inner thigh and genitalia. Two other passengers were also injured. When the plane landed, Abdulmutallab was handed over to U.S. Customs and Border Protection
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is a federal law enforcement agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security charged with regulating and facilitating international trade, collecting import duties, and enforcing U.S. regulations, including trade, customs and immigration. CBP is the...

 (CBP) officers, and taken into custody for questioning and treatment of his injuries in a secured room of the burn unit of the University of Michigan Medical Center
University of Michigan Health System
The University of Michigan Health System is the wholly owned academic medical center of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. UMHS includes the U-M Medical School, with its Faculty Group Practice and many research laboratories; the U-M Hospitals and Health Centers, which includes University...

 in Ann Arbor. Schuringa was also taken to the hospital. One other passenger incurred minor injuries.

Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

 (FBI) agents arrived at the airport after the plane landed. The aircraft was moved to a remote area so authorities could re-screen the plane, the passengers, and the baggage on-board. A bomb-defusing robot
A robot is a mechanical or virtual intelligent agent that can perform tasks automatically or with guidance, typically by remote control. In practice a robot is usually an electro-mechanical machine that is guided by computer and electronic programming. Robots can be autonomous, semi-autonomous or...

 was first used to board the plane, and the Transportation Security Administration
Transportation Security Administration
The Transportation Security Administration is an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that exercises authority over the safety and security of the traveling public in the United States....

 (TSA) interviewed all passengers. Another passenger from the flight was placed in handcuffs after a dog alerted officers to his carry-on luggage, searched, and released.

Analysis of explosives

The substance that the suspect tried to detonate was more than 80 grams (2.8 oz) of pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN), a crystalline powder that is often the active ingredient
Active ingredient
An active ingredient is the substance of a pharmaceutical drug or a pharmaceutical ingredient and bulk active in medicine; in pesticide formulations active substance may be used. Some medications and pesticide products may contain more than one active ingredient...

 of plastic explosives, the high explosive triacetone triperoxide
Acetone peroxide
Acetone peroxide is an organic peroxide and a primary high explosive. It takes the form of a white crystalline powder with a distinctive bleach-like odor....

 (TATP), and other ingredients. PETN is among the most powerful of explosives, in the same chemical family as nitroglycerin. The powder was analyzed by the FBI at Quantico
FBI Academy
The FBI Academy, located in Quantico, Virginia, is the training site for new Special Agents of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was first opened for use in 1972 on 385 acres of woodland. It is a relatively small government academy, housing three dormitory buildings and...

, and an FBI affidavit
An affidavit is a written sworn statement of fact voluntarily made by an affiant or deponent under an oath or affirmation administered by a person authorized to do so by law. Such statement is witnessed as to the authenticity of the affiant's signature by a taker of oaths, such as a notary public...

 filed in the Eastern District of Michigan reflected preliminary findings that the device contained PETN. The authorities also found the remains of the syringe. The suspect apparently carried the PETN onto the plane in a 6 inches (15.2 cm)-long soft plastic container, possibly a condom
A condom is a barrier device most commonly used during sexual intercourse to reduce the probability of pregnancy and spreading sexually transmitted diseases . It is put on a man's erect penis and physically blocks ejaculated semen from entering the body of a sexual partner...

, attached to his underwear. Much of the container was lost in the fire. ABC News
ABC News
ABC News is the news gathering and broadcasting division of American broadcast television network ABC, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company...

cited a government test indicating that 50 grams (1.8 oz) of PETN can blow a hole in the side of an airliner, and posted photos of the remains of Abdulmutallab's underwear and explosive packet.

In a public test conducted by the BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

, the test plane's fuselage
The fuselage is an aircraft's main body section that holds crew and passengers or cargo. In single-engine aircraft it will usually contain an engine, although in some amphibious aircraft the single engine is mounted on a pylon attached to the fuselage which in turn is used as a floating hull...

 remained intact, indicating that the bomb would not have destroyed the aircraft, though it did show window damage that would almost certainly have led to cabin depressurization. This test was undertaken at ground level, with zero pressure differential between the cabin and the surrounding environment. This was claimed to have no effect on the overall result of the test, which aimed to simulate the explosion at 10000 feet (3,048 m). It was not demonstrated what would happen at a typical cruising altitude of between 31000 feet (9,448.8 m) and 39000 feet (11,887.2 m), where the pressure differential would have caused the fuselage to be under a far greater stress than at ground level.

Al-Qaeda member Richard Reid
Richard Reid (shoe bomber)
Richard Colvin Reid , also known as the Shoe Bomber, is a self-admitted member of al-Qaeda who pled guilty in 2002 in U.S. federal court to eight criminal counts of terrorism stemming from his attempt to destroy a commercial aircraft in-flight by detonating explosives hidden in his shoes...

 (the "Shoe Bomber") tried to detonate 50 grams of the same explosives in his shoes during an American Airlines flight on December 22, 2001. The attack by Abdulmutallab was close to the eighth anniversary of Reid's attempt.

Verbally disruptive passenger incident

On December 27, 2009, two days after the original incident, the crew of another Flight 253 requested emergency assistance with a Nigerian passenger who they said had become "verbally disruptive". The crew questioned the passenger after other passengers expressed concern that he had been in the lavatory for over an hour. It was later determined that the man was a businessman who had fallen ill from food poisoning during the flight, and did not pose any security risk.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

The suspect in the attempted bombing was 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Abdulmutallab was initially raised in Kaduna
Kaduna is the state capital of Kaduna State in north-central Nigeria. The city, located on the Kaduna River, is a trade center and a major transportation hub for the surrounding agricultural areas with its rail and road junction. The population of Kaduna is at 760,084 as of the 2006 Nigerian census...

, in Nigeria's Muslim
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

-dominated north, a place he returned to on his vacations.

In high school at the British International School
The British School of Lome
The British School of Lomé was established in 1983 to serve expatriate families based in Lomé, Togo, who favoured an international education within a British framework....

 in Lomé
Lomé, with an estimated population of 737,751, is the capital and largest city of Togo. Located on the Gulf of Guinea, Lomé is the country's administrative and industrial center and its chief port. The city exports coffee, cocoa, copra, and palm kernels...

, Togo
Togo, officially the Togolese Republic , is a country in West Africa bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the east and Burkina Faso to the north. It extends south to the Gulf of Guinea, on which the capital Lomé is located. Togo covers an area of approximately with a population of approximately...

, Abdulmutallab was known to be a devout Muslim who frequently discussed Islam with schoolmates. He visited the U.S. for the first time in 2004. For the 2004–05 academic year, Abdulmutallab studied at the San'a Institute for the Arabic Language
San'a Institute for the Arabic Language
San'a Institute for the Arabic Language is located in the Old City of Sana'a, Yemen on Sa’ilah Street. The school specializes in teaching Arabic as a foreign language....

 in Sana'a
-Districts:*Al Wahdah District*As Sabain District*Assafi'yah District*At Tahrir District*Ath'thaorah District*Az'zal District*Bani Al Harith District*Ma'ain District*Old City District*Shu'aub District-Old City:...

, Yemen, and attended lectures at Iman University
Iman University
Iman University is a Sunni religious school founded in 1993 in San‘a’, Yemen...


He began his studies at University College London
University College London
University College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and the oldest and largest constituent college of the federal University of London...

 in September 2005, where he was president of the school's Islamic society in 2006 and 2007, during which time he participated in, along with political discussions, such activities as martial arts
Martial arts
Martial arts are extensive systems of codified practices and traditions of combat, practiced for a variety of reasons, including self-defense, competition, physical health and fitness, as well as mental and spiritual development....

 and paintball
Paintball is a sport in which players compete, in teams or individually, to eliminate opponents by tagging them with capsules containing water soluble dye and gelatin shell outside propelled from a device called a paintball marker . Paintballs have a non-toxic, biodegradable, water soluble...

ing; at least one of the Society's paintballing trips involved a preacher who reportedly said: "Dying while fighting jihad
Jihad , an Islamic term, is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates as a noun meaning "struggle". Jihad appears 41 times in the Quran and frequently in the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of God ". A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid; the plural is...

is one of the surest ways to paradise." During those years, he "crossed the radar screen" of MI5
The Security Service, commonly known as MI5 , is the United Kingdom's internal counter-intelligence and security agency and is part of its core intelligence machinery alongside the Secret Intelligence Service focused on foreign threats, Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence...

, the UK's domestic counter-intelligence and security agency, for radical links and "multiple communications" with Islamic extremists; none of the information was passed to American officials, due to concerns about breaching his human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 and privacy.

On June 12, 2008, Abdulmutallab applied for and received from the U.S. consulate in London a U.S. multiple-entry visa
Visa (document)
A visa is a document showing that a person is authorized to enter the territory for which it was issued, subject to permission of an immigration official at the time of actual entry. The authorization may be a document, but more commonly it is a stamp endorsed in the applicant's passport...

, valid to June 12, 2010, with which he visited Houston, Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

, from August 1–17, 2008. In May 2009, Abdulmutallab tried to return to Britain, supposedly for a six-month "life coaching" program at what the British authorities concluded was a fictitious school; accordingly, his visa application was denied by the United Kingdom Border Agency. His name was placed on a UK Home Office
Home Office
The Home Office is the United Kingdom government department responsible for immigration control, security, and order. As such it is responsible for the police, UK Border Agency, and the Security Service . It is also in charge of government policy on security-related issues such as drugs,...

 security watch list, which meant he was not permitted to enter the UK, though he could pass through the country in transit and was not permanently banned. The UK did not share the information with other countries.

Abdulmutallab returned to the San'a Institute to study Arabic from August to September 2009. "He told me his greatest wish was for sharia
Sharia law, is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Sharia is derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: the precepts set forth in the Quran, and the example set by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Fiqh jurisprudence interprets and extends the application of sharia to...

and Islam to be the rule of law across the world", said one of his classmates at the Institute. However, Abdulmutallab left the Institute after a month, but remained in Yemen. Earlier, his family had become concerned in August when he called them to say he had dropped the course, but was remaining there. By September, he routinely skipped his classes at the institute and attended lectures at Iman University, which intelligence officials from the United States suspected to have links to terrorism.

The San'a Institute obtained an exit visa for him at his request, and arranged for a car that took him to the airport on September 21, 2009 (the day his student visa expired), but the school's director said, "After that, we never saw him again, and apparently he did not leave Yemen". In October, Abdulmutallab sent his father a text message saying that he was no longer interested pursuing an MBA in Dubai, and wanted instead to study sharia and Arabic in a seven-year course in Yemen. His father threatened to cut off his funding, whereupon Abdulmutallab said he was "already getting everything for free". He text-messaged his father, saying "I've found a new religion, the real Islam", and ultimately, "You should just forget about me, I'm never coming back", "Please forgive me. I will no longer be in touch with you", and "Forgive me for any wrongdoing, I am no longer your child". The family was last in contact with Abdulmutallab in October 2009.

A video of Abdulmutallab and others training in a desert camp, firing weapons at targets such as the Jewish star, the British Union Jack, and the letters "UN", was produced by al-Qaeda in Yemen (whose logo is in a corner of the screen). The tape also includes an apparent martyrdom statement from him, justifying his actions against "the Jews and the Christians and their agents."

On November 11, 2009, British intelligence officials sent the U.S. a message indicating that a man named "Umar Farouk" had spoken to Anwar al-Awlaki, a Muslim spiritual leader supposedly tied to al-Qaeda, pledging to support jihad, but the notice did not mention Abdulmutallab's last name. His father made a report to two CIA officers at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, on November 19 regarding his son's "extreme religious views", and told the embassy that Abdulmutallab might be in Yemen. Acting on the report, Abdulmutallab's name was added in November 2009 to the U.S.'s 550,000-name Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment
Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment
The Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, is the U.S. Government's central database on known or suspected international terrorists, and contains highly classified information provided by members of the Intelligence Community such as CIA, DIA, FBI, NSA, and many others.There are about 550,000...

, a database of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center
National Counterterrorism Center
The National Counterterrorism Center is a United States government organization responsible for national and international counterterrorism efforts. It is based in a modern complex near McLean, Virginia called Liberty Crossing...

. It was not added, however, to the FBI's 400,000-name Terrorist Screening Database
Terrorist Screening Database
The Terrorist Screening Database or TSDB is the central terrorist watchlist consolidated by the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center and used by multiple agencies to compile their specific watchlists and for screening. The list consists of 400,000 unique names and over 1,000,000 records as of...

, the terror watch list that feeds both the 14,000-name Secondary Screening Selectee list
Secondary Security Screening Selection
Secondary Security Screening Selection or Secondary Security Screening Selectee, known by its acronym SSSS, is an airport security measure in the United States and Canada which selects passengers for additional inspection. This may also be known as Selectee, Automatic Selectee or the Selectee list...

 and the U.S.'s 4,000-name No Fly List
No Fly List
The No Fly List is a list, created and maintained by the United States government's Terrorist Screening Center , of people who are not permitted to board a commercial aircraft for travel in or out of the United States. The list has also been used to divert away from U.S. airspace aircraft not...

. Abdulmutallab's U.S. visa was not revoked either.

Yemeni officials said that he left Yemen on December 7 (flying to Ethiopia, and then two days later to Ghana). Ghanaian officials said Abdulmutallab was there from December 9 until December 24, when he flew to Lagos.

Two days after the attack, Abdulmutallab was released from the hospital in which he had been treated for burns sustained during the attempted bombing. He was then taken to the Federal Correctional Institution, Milan
Federal Correctional Institution, Milan
The Federal Correctional Institution, Milan is a U.S. federal prison in York Charter Township, Michigan, near Milan.This prison is a low-security facility for male inmates. Its adjacent Federal Detention Center houses pretrial and holdover inmates...

, a federal prison in York Charter Township, Michigan
York Charter Township, Michigan
York Charter Township is a charter township of Washtenaw County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 7,392 at the 2000 census.Federal Correctional Institution, Milan and the Toyota Technical Center are located in the township...

, near Milan
Milan, Michigan
Milan is a city in Monroe and Washtenaw counties in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 4,775 at the 2000 census. About 60% of the city's area and 75% of its residents are located on the Washtenaw County side adjacent to York Township in Washtenaw County; while 40% percent of the...


Ties to Anwar al-Awlaki

A number of sources reported contacts between Abdulmutallab and Anwar al-Awlaki, a Muslim lecturer and spiritual leader who is accused of being a senior al-Qaeda talent recruiter and motivator. Al-Awlaki, previously an imam
An imam is an Islamic leadership position, often the worship leader of a mosque and the Muslim community. Similar to spiritual leaders, the imam is the one who leads Islamic worship services. More often, the community turns to the mosque imam if they have a religious question...

 in the U.S. who more recently has lived in Yemen, also has links to three of the 9/11 hijackers, the 2005 London subway bombers
7 July 2005 London bombings
The 7 July 2005 London bombings were a series of co-ordinated suicide attacks in the United Kingdom, targeting civilians using London's public transport system during the morning rush hour....

, a 2006 Toronto terror cell
2006 Toronto terrorism case
The 2006 Ontario terrorism case refers to the plotting of a series of attacks against targets in Southern Ontario, Canada, and the June 2, 2006, counter-terrorism raids in and around the Greater Toronto Area that resulted in the arrest of 18 people found to be Al-Qaeda members of an Islamic...

, a 2007 plot to attack Fort Dix
2007 Fort Dix attack plot
The 2007 Fort Dix attack plot involved a group of six radical Islamist men who conspired to stage an attack against U.S. Military personnel stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey. The alleged aim of the group was to "kill as many soldiers as possible"....

, and the 2009 suspected Fort Hood shooter
Fort Hood shooting
The Fort Hood shooting was a mass shooting that took place on November 5, 2009, at Fort Hood, the most populous U.S. military installation in the world, located just outside Killeen, Texas. In the course of the shooting, a single gunman killed 13 people and wounded 29 others...

, Nidal Malik Hasan
Nidal Malik Hasan
Nidal Malik Hasan, USA is a United States Army officer and sole suspect in the November 5, 2009, Fort Hood shooting, which occurred less than a month before he would have deployed to Afghanistan....

. Despite being banned from entering the UK in 2006, al-Awlaki has spoken on at least seven occasions at five different venues around Britain via video-link from 2007–09.

U.S. Representative
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

 Pete Hoekstra
Pete Hoekstra
Peter "Pete" Hoekstra is a former Republican U.S. Representative for who served in the House from 1993 until 2011. He was an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Michigan in 2010 and is expected to run for the United States Senate against Debbie Stabenow in 2012.-Early life and education:Born...

, the senior Republican
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

 on the House Intelligence Committee, said on the day of the attack that both Obama administration officials and officials with access to law enforcement information told him that "there are reports [the suspect] had contact [with al-Awlaki].... The question we'll have to raise is was this imam in Yemen influential enough to get some people to attack the U.S. again." He added, "The suspicion is ... that [the suspect] had contact with al-Awlaki. The belief is this is a stronger connection with al-Awlaki" than Hasan had. Hoekstra later said that credible sources had told him Abdulmutallab "most likely" has ties with al-Awlaki.

The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times is a British Sunday newspaper.The Sunday Times may also refer to:*The Sunday Times *The Sunday Times *The Sunday Times *The Sunday Times...

reported that Abdulmutallab first met and attended lectures by al-Awlaki in 2005, when he was in Yemen to study Arabic. He attended a sermon by al-Awlaki at the Finsbury Park Mosque
Finsbury Park Mosque
North London Central Mosque in Finsbury Park, London was built in the 1990s to serve the large Muslim population in the area. It has a capacity of 1,800 people....

. The two are also "thought to have met" in London, according to The Daily Mail. Fox News reported that evidence collected during searches of "flats or apartments of interest" connected to Abdulmutallab in London showed that he was a "big fan" of al-Awlaki, as web traffic showed he followed Awlaki's blog and website. CBS News
CBS News
CBS News is the news division of American television and radio network CBS. The current chairman is Jeff Fager who is also the executive producer of 60 Minutes, while the current president of CBS News is David Rhodes. CBS News' flagship program is the CBS Evening News, hosted by the network's main...

and The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph is a daily morning broadsheet newspaper distributed throughout the United Kingdom and internationally. The newspaper was founded by Arthur B...

reported that Abdulmutallab attended a talk by al-Awlaki at the East London Mosque (which al-Awlaki may have participated in by video teleconference). University of Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

 historian, and professor of international relations, Mark Almond
Mark Almond
Mark Almond is a writer and lecturer in Modern History at Oriel College, Oxford.Almond holds a Master's degree , and is the Chair of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group...

 wrote that the suspect was "on American security watch-lists because of his links with... Al-Awlaki".

CBS News reported that the two had communicated in the months before the bombing attempt, and other sources have said that at a minimum, al-Awlaki was providing spiritual support for Abdulmutallab and the attack. According to federal sources, over the year prior to the attack, Abdulmutallab intensified electronic communications with al-Awlaki.

Intelligence officials suspected that al-Awlaki may have directed Abdulmutallab to Yemen for al-Qaeda training. One government source described intercepted "voice-to-voice communication" between the two during the fall of 2009, saying that al-Awlaki "was in some way involved in facilitating [Abdulmutallab]'s transportation or trip through Yemen. It could be training, a host of things."

Abdulmutallab reportedly told the FBI that al-Awlaki was one of his trainers when he underwent al-Qaeda training in remote camps in Yemen, and that there were "informed reports" that Abdulmutallab met al-Awlaki during his final weeks of training and indoctrination prior to the attack. According to one U.S. intelligence official, intercepts and other information point to connections between the two.

Yemen's Deputy Prime Minister for Defense and Security Affairs, Rashad Mohammed al-Alimi, said Yemeni investigators believe the suspect traveled in October to Shabwa, where he met with suspected al-Qaida members in a house built by al-Awlaki and used by al-Awlaki to hold theological sessions, and that Abdulmutallab was trained and equipped there with his explosives. "If he went to Shabwa, for sure he would have met Anwar al-Awlaki," al-Alimi said. Al-Alimi also said he believed al-Awlaki is alive. And Abdul Elah al-Shaya, a Yemeni journalist, said a healthy al-Awlaki called him on December 28 and said that the Yemeni government's claims as to his death were "lies". Shaya declined to comment as to whether al-Awlaki had told him about any contacts he may have had with Abdulmutallab. According to Gregory Johnsen, a Yemeni expert at Princeton University
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

, Shaya is generally reliable.

At the end of January 2010, a Yemeni journalist, Abdulelah Hider Sha’ea, said he met with al-Awlaki, who told Sha'ea that he had met and spoken with Abdulmutallab in Yemen in late 2009. al-Awlaki also reportedly called Abdulmutallab one of his students, said that he supported what Abdulmutallab did but did not tell him to do it, and that he was proud of Abdulmutallab. A New York Times journalist who listened to a digital recording of the meeting said that while the tape's authenticity could not be independently verified, the voice resembled that on other recordings of al-Awlaki.

Al-Awlaki released a tape in March 2010, in which he said, in part:
To the American people ... nine years after 9/11, nine years of spending, and nine years of beefing up security you are still unsafe even in the holiest and most sacred of days to you, Christmas Day....

Our brother Umar Farouk has succeeded in breaking through the security systems that have cost the U.S. government alone over 40 billion dollars since 9/11.

On April 6, 2010, The New York Times reported that President Obama had authorized the targeted killing of al-Awlaki. He was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Yemen on Friday, September 30, 2011.

Al-Qaeda involvement

On December 28, 2009, Obama, in his first address after the incident, said that the event "demonstrates that an alert and courageous citizenry are far more resilient than an isolated extremist". On the same day, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) announced that it was responsible for the attempted bombing. AQAP said that the attack, during "their [Americans'] celebration of the Christmas holidays", was to "avenge U.S. attacks on the militants in Yemen". The NEFA Foundation posted the full al-Qaeda statement.

On January 24, an audio tape said to be from Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was the founder of the militant Islamist organization Al-Qaeda, the jihadist organization responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States and numerous other mass-casualty attacks against civilian and military targets...

 praised the bombing attempt and warned of further attacks against America, but did not explicitly claim responsibility for it. The short recording that was broadcasted on Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera is an independent broadcaster owned by the state of Qatar through the Qatar Media Corporation and headquartered in Doha, Qatar...

 television, said: "The message delivered to you through the plane of the heroic warrior Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was a confirmation of the previous messages sent by the heroes of the September 11." An adviser to the U.S. President said he could not confirm whether the voice was actually that of bin Laden. In the past, the CIA has usually confirmed Al Jazeera reports on tapes attributed to bin Laden.

While in custody, Abdulmutallab told authorities he had been directed by al-Qaeda. He said he had obtained the device in Yemen, along with instructions from al-Qaeda as to how to use it and to detonate it when the plane was over U.S. soil. Abdulmutallab said he had contacted al-Qaeda through a radical Yemeni imam (who according to The New York Times on December 26 was not believed to be al-Awlaki) whom he had reached through the internet.

The New York Times reported on December 25 that a counter-terrorism official had told them Abdulmutallab's claim "may have been aspirational". But U.S. Representative Jane Harman
Jane Harman
Jane Margaret Lakes Harman is the former U.S. Representative for , serving from 1993 to 1999, and from 2001 to 2011. She is a member of the Democratic Party....

 (D-Calif.), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing, and Terrorism Risk Assessment, said the following day that a federal official briefed lawmakers about "strong suggestions of a Yemen-al Qaeda connection" with the suspect. On January 2, 2010, President Obama said that AQAP trained, equipped, and dispatched Abdulmutallab, and vowed retribution.

In reaction to suggestions that the U.S. launch a military offensive against the alleged terrorists' sanctuary in Yemen, The Washington Post
The Washington Post
The Washington Post is Washington, D.C.'s largest newspaper and its oldest still-existing paper, founded in 1877. Located in the capital of the United States, The Post has a particular emphasis on national politics. D.C., Maryland, and Virginia editions are printed for daily circulation...

noted that Yemeni forces equipped with U.S. weapons and intelligence had carried out two major raids against AQAP shortly before the bombing attempt, and that the terror group may have lost top leaders in a December 24, 2009 airstrike
An air strike is an attack on a specific objective by military aircraft during an offensive mission. Air strikes are commonly delivered from aircraft such as fighters, bombers, ground attack aircraft, attack helicopters, and others...


On March 24, 2011, the Associated Press was reported that before Abdulmutallab set off on his mission, he visited the home of al-Qaeda manager Fahd al-Quso to discuss the plot and the workings of the bomb. In addition, the AP said it was told that Abdulmutallab targeted Detroit because the plane ticket there was cheaper than the tickets to either Houston or Chicago. This reportedly indicates that al-Qaeda in Yemen chose to attack "targets of opportunity," rather than Osama bin Laden's preference of "symbolic targets."

Jasper Schuringa

Jasper Schuringa, who was en route to Miami, Florida for a vacation, stopped Abdulmutallab from causing too much damage and received burn injuries in the process. In a statement, Schuringa, who was in seat 20J on the flight, said he was able to locate Abdulmutallab, help to extinguish the fire that the explosive had caused, and helped to restrain Abdulmutallab using plastic cuffs. Schuringa lives in Amsterdam, and was born in 1977 in Curaçao
Curaçao is an island in the southern Caribbean Sea, off the Venezuelan coast. The Country of Curaçao , which includes the main island plus the small, uninhabited island of Klein Curaçao , is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands...

, Netherlands Antilles
Netherlands Antilles
The Netherlands Antilles , also referred to informally as the Dutch Antilles, was an autonomous Caribbean country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, consisting of two groups of islands in the Lesser Antilles: Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao , in Leeward Antilles just off the Venezuelan coast; and Sint...

. Schuringa is a graduate of Leiden University
Leiden University
Leiden University , located in the city of Leiden, is the oldest university in the Netherlands. The university was founded in 1575 by William, Prince of Orange, leader of the Dutch Revolt in the Eighty Years' War. The royal Dutch House of Orange-Nassau and Leiden University still have a close...

, Leiden. He is a film director of low-budget Dutch films for an Amsterdam-based media company, and was the assistant director for National Lampoon's Teed Off Too.

Dutch Deputy Prime Minister
Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands
The Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands is the official Deputy of the Head of Government of the Netherlands. In the absence of the Prime Minister the deputy prime minister takes over his functions, such as chairing the Cabinet of the Netherlands...

 Wouter Bos
Wouter Bos
Wouter Jacob Bos is a Dutch management consultant and former politician of the Labour Party . He was Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister in the Cabinet Balkenende IV from February 22, 2007 till February 23, 2010...

 phoned Schuringa on behalf of the Dutch government the day after the attack, and conveyed the government's compliments and gratitude for Schuringa's part in overpowering the suspect. Dutch Member of Parliament Geert Wilders
Geert Wilders
Geert Wilders is a Dutch right-wing politician and leader of the Party for Freedom , the third-largest political party in the Netherlands. He is the Parliamentary group leader of his party in the Dutch House of Representatives...

 called Schuringa "a national hero" who "deserves a royal honor", which Wilders said he would ask the Dutch government to award.
According to the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant
De Volkskrant
de Volkskrant is a national daily Dutch morning newspaper, the leading centre-left broadsheet, although now in tabloid size.-History:...

, Queen Beatrix
Beatrix of the Netherlands
Beatrix is the Queen regnant of the Kingdom of the Netherlands comprising the Netherlands, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, and Aruba. She is the first daughter of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands and Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld. She studied law at Leiden University...

 expressed her feelings of gratitude towards Schuringa. On May 21, 2010, Schuringa received the Honorary Medal of the city Amsterdam from then-acting mayor of Amsterdam, Lodewijk Asscher
Lodewijk Asscher
Lodewijk Frans Asscher is a Dutch politician of the Labour Party . He was the Acting Mayor of Amsterdam between March 12, 2010 and July 7, 2010 after Job Cohen resigned as Mayor to become the Labour Party Party leader and Lijsttrekker for the Dutch general election of 2010.-Politics:He is alderman...

, for his "extraordinary heroism." In December 2010, Schuringa was also awarded the Silver Carnegie Medal from the Dutch division of the Carnegie Hero Fund
Carnegie Hero Fund
The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, also known as Carnegie Hero Fund, was established to recognize persons who perform extraordinary acts of heroism in civilian life in the United States and Canada, and to provide financial assistance for those disabled and the dependents of those killed saving or...


Domestic response

The U.S. investigation into the incident is being managed by the Detroit Joint Terrorism Task Force
Joint Terrorism Task Force
A Joint Terrorism Task Force is a partnership between various U.S. law enforcement agencies that is charged with taking action against terrorism, which includes the investigation of crimes such as wire fraud and identity theft...

, which is led by the FBI and includes U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is a federal law enforcement agency under the United States Department of Homeland Security , responsible for identifying, investigating, and dismantling vulnerabilities regarding the nation's border, economic, transportation, and infrastructure security...

, the Federal Air Marshal Service
Federal Air Marshal Service
The Federal Air Marshal Service is a United States federal law enforcement agency under the supervision of the Transportation Security Administration of the United States Department of Homeland Security...

, and other law enforcement agencies. Among other questions, they were attempting to answer the following: what training did Abdulmutallab receive, who else (if anyone) was in the training program, are others preparing to launch similar attacks, was the attack part of a larger (possibly worldwide) plot, was it a test run, who assisted him, who gave him the chemicals, who sewed the explosives in his underwear, who further radicalized him, who sent him on his way, and how was he able to smuggle the explosives past airport security.

President Barack Obama was notified of the incident by an aide while on a vacation in Kailua, Hawaii, and spoke with officials from the Department of Homeland Security. He instructed that all appropriate measures be taken in response to the incident. While the White House called the attack an act of terrorism, U.S. Attorney General
United States Attorney General
The United States Attorney General is the head of the United States Department of Justice concerned with legal affairs and is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States government. The attorney general is considered to be the chief lawyer of the U.S. government...

 Eric Holder
Eric Holder
Eric Himpton Holder, Jr. is the 82nd and current Attorney General of the United States and the first African American to hold the position, serving under President Barack Obama....

 has not declared the incident an official terrorist act.

The U.S. is examining what information it had before the attack, why its National Counterterrorism Center did not put together the warning from Abdulmutallab's father and intercepts by the National Security Agency (NSA) of conversations among Yemeni al-Qaida leaders about a "Nigerian" to be used for an attack (months before the attack took place), and why the suspect's U.S. visa was not revoked after his father's warning.

On January 7, 2010, James L. Jones
James L. Jones
James Logan Jones, Jr. is the former United States National Security Advisor and a retired United States Marine Corps General....

, the National Security Advisor
National Security Advisor (United States)
The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, commonly referred to as the National Security Advisor , serves as the chief advisor to the President of the United States on national security issues...

, said Americans would feel "a certain shock" when a report detailing the intelligence failures that could have prevented the Christmas Day attack were released that day. He said that President Obama would be "legitimately and correctly alarmed that things that were available, bits of information that were available, patterns of behavior that were available, were not acted on."

The U.S. also increased the installation and use of full-body scanners in many of its major airports as a result of the attack. The scanners are designed to be able to detect bombs under clothing, and 11 airports, including O'Hare International Airport
O'Hare International Airport
Chicago O'Hare International Airport , also known as O'Hare Airport, O'Hare Field, Chicago Airport, Chicago International Airport, or simply O'Hare, is a major airport located in the northwestern-most corner of Chicago, Illinois, United States, northwest of the Chicago Loop...

 in Chicago, began to receive the machines in March 2010. The TSA said that it had plans to have 1,000 of the machines in airports by the end of 2011. Before, the U.S. had only 40 scanners across 19 airports. The government also said that it planned to buy 300 additional scanners in 2010 and another 500 in the following fiscal year, starting October 2010. It costs around an estimated $530 million to purchase the 500 machines and hire over 5,300 workers to operate them. However, the U.S. government has stated that being scanned is voluntary and that passengers who object to the process could choose to undergo a pat-down search or be searched with hand-held detectors. Under new rules prompted by the incident, airline passengers traveling to the U.S. from 14 nations would undergo extra screening: Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

, Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

, Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

, Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

, Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

, Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

, Somalia
Somalia , officially the Somali Republic and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic under Socialist rule, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 there has been no central government control over most of the country's territory...

, Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

, Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, and Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

. The inclusion of non-Muslim Cuba on the list was criticized.

International response

Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown
James Gordon Brown is a British Labour Party politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Labour Party from 2007 until 2010. He previously served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Labour Government from 1997 to 2007...

, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

, said that the UK would take "whatever action was necessary". The day after the attack, British police searched a family-owned flat where Abdulmutallab had lived while in London.

Dutch counter-terrorism agency NCTb
The Nationaal Coördinator Terrorismebestrijding is the Dutch official counter-terrorism unit established in January 2005. It is, amongst other responsibilities, responsible for civil aviation...

 said that it had started a probe into where the suspect originated. Dutch officials also said that they will now use 3D full-body scanning X-ray technology on flights departing to the U.S., despite protests from privacy advocates. Dutch officials said that security must take priority over the privacy of the individuals being scanned, but the scanners are not designed to compromise an individual's privacy, as the imagery resolution is only high enough to detect non-metallic objects under clothing, such as powdered explosives. Members of the Second Chamber (Lower House
Lower house
A lower house is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the upper house.Despite its official position "below" the upper house, in many legislatures worldwide the lower house has come to wield more power...

) of the Dutch parliament
States-General of the Netherlands
The States-General of the Netherlands is the bicameral legislature of the Netherlands, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The parliament meets in at the Binnenhof in The Hague. The archaic Dutch word "staten" originally related to the feudal classes in which medieval...

 demanded an explanation from Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice (Netherlands)
The Ministry of Security and Justice is the Dutch ministry of justice. Until 14 October 2010, the ministry was just called Ministry of Justice , but at the start of the Rutte cabinet, the name changed because it had taken over some public safety duties from the Ministry of the Interior...

 Hirsch Ballin
Ernst Hirsch Ballin
Ernst Maurits Henricus Hirsch Ballin is a Dutch politician of the Christian Democratic Appeal . He served as Minister of Justice and Minister for Suriname and Netherlands Antilles Affairs from November 7, 1989 until May 27, 1994 in the Cabinet Lubbers III...

, asking how the suspect managed to smuggle explosives on board, despite Schiphol's reportedly strict security measures.

The incident also raised concerns regarding security procedures at Nigeria's major international airports in Lagos and Abuja
Abuja is the capital city of Nigeria. It is located in the centre of Nigeria, within the Federal Capital Territory . Abuja is a planned city, and was built mainly in the 1980s. It officially became Nigeria's capital on 12 December 1991, replacing Lagos...

. In response to criticism, Nigerian civil aviation officer Harold Demuran announced that Nigeria would also set up full-body scanning X-ray machines in Nigerian airports.

In response to the incident and to comply with new U.S. regulations, the Canadian government said it would install full body scanners at major airports. The first 44 scanners were planned to be installed at airports in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax.

Other agencies

Delta Air Lines, which owned Northwest until all operations were merged into Delta on January 31, 2010, said its Detroit group did not handle security for the flight. It released a statement calling the incident a "disturbance," and saying that Delta was "cooperating fully with authorities". Delta's CEO, Richard Anderson, said in an internal memo that "Having this occur again [after 9/11] is disappointing to all of us... You can be certain we will make our points very clearly in Washington."

In January 2010, ICTS International
ICTS International
ICTS International is an Israeli firm based in the Netherlands that develops products and provides consulting and personnel services in the field of aviation and general security. It was established in 1982, by former members of the Shin Bet, Israel's internal security agency, and El Al airline...

, a security firm that provides security services to Schiphol airport, and G4S (Group 4 Securicor Aviation Security B.V.), another security firm, traded blame over the security oversight, as did authorities at Schiphol Airport, the Federal Aviation Authority, and U.S. intelligence officials. According to Haaretz
Haaretz is Israel's oldest daily newspaper. It was founded in 1918 and is now published in both Hebrew and English in Berliner format. The English edition is published and sold together with the International Herald Tribune. Both Hebrew and English editions can be read on the Internet...

, the failure was twofold: An intelligence failure, as Obama stated, in the poor handling of information that arrived at the State Department and probably also the CIA from both the father of the would-be bomber and the British security service; and a failure within the security system, including that of ICTS.

Criminal charges

On December 26, a criminal complaint was filed against Abdulmutallab in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan is the Federal district court with jurisdiction over of the eastern portion of the state of Michigan. The Court is based in Detroit, with courthouses also located in Ann Arbor, Bay City, Flint, and Port Huron...

, charging him with two counts: placing a destructive device in, and attempting to destroy, a U.S. civil aircraft. Abdulmutallab was arraigned and officially charged by U.S. District Court Judge Paul D. Borman
Paul D. Borman
Paul D. Borman is a United States federal judge on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.-Career:A native of Detroit, Michigan, Borman received a B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1959. He later received a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School in...

 later the same day at the University of Michigan Hospital.

On January 6, 2010, a federal grand jury indicted Abdulmutallab on six criminal counts including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted murder. "Not guilty" pleas were entered on the behalf of Abdulmutallab at the hearing. If convicted, Abdulmutallab could face a life sentence plus 90 years. He faced his first court hearing, a detention hearing, on January 8, 2010.

When asked about his decision to prosecute Abdulmutallab in federal court rather than have him detained under the law of war, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder defended his position, saying that it was "fully consistent with the long-established and publicly known policies and practices of the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the United States Government as a whole," and that he was confident that Abdulmutallab would be successfully prosecuted under the federal criminal law. Holder had originally been asked by U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell
Mitch McConnell
Addison Mitchell "Mitch" McConnell, Jr. is the senior United States Senator from Kentucky and the Republican Minority Leader.- Early life, education, and military service :...

, as well as several others, about his choice.

Effect on travel

The U.S. government did not raise the Homeland Security Advisory System
Homeland Security Advisory System
In the United States, the Homeland Security Advisory System was a color-coded terrorism threat advisory scale. The different levels trigger specific actions by federal agencies and state and local governments, and they affect the level of security at some airports and other public facilities. It...

 terrorist threat level, orange at the time (high risk of terrorist attacks), following the attack. The Department of Homeland Security said that additional security measures would be in place for the remainder of the Christmas travel period. The TSA detailed several of the measures, including a restriction on movement and access to personal items during the last hour of flight for planes entering U.S. airspace. The TSA also said that there would be more officers and security dogs at airports.

On December 28, Transport Canada
Transport Canada
Transport Canada is the department within the government of Canada which is responsible for developing regulations, policies and services of transportation in Canada. It is part of the Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities portfolio...

 announced that for several days it would not allow passengers flying to the U.S. from Canada a carry-on bag, with some exceptions. British Airways
British Airways
British Airways is the flag carrier airline of the United Kingdom, based in Waterside, near its main hub at London Heathrow Airport. British Airways is the largest airline in the UK based on fleet size, international flights and international destinations...

 said that passengers flying to the U.S. would only be permitted one carry-on item. Other European countries increased baggage screening, pat-down searches, and random searches for passengers traveling to the U.S. A spokesperson for Schiphol Airport said that heightened security would be in place for "an indefinite period". However, in spite of the extra measures said to have been put in place to prevent a follow-up attack, Stuart Clarke, a photoreporter from the British newspaper Daily Express
Daily Express
The Daily Express switched from broadsheet to tabloid in 1977 and was bought by the construction company Trafalgar House in the same year. Its publishing company, Beaverbrook Newspapers, was renamed Express Newspapers...

, claimed to have smuggled a syringe containing fluid, which could have been a liquid bomb detonator onto another plane. On January 3, 2010, Clarke said he boarded a jet from Schiphol Airport bound for Heathrow Airport just five days after the Christmas Day attack, and that the airport appeared to have imposed no additional security, such as precautionary pat-downs which could easily have discovered the syringe which he claimed he kept in his jacket pocket throughout.

U.S. political fallout

White House Press Secretary
White House Press Secretary
The White House Press Secretary is a senior White House official whose primary responsibility is to act as spokesperson for the government administration....

 Robert Gibbs
Robert Gibbs
Robert Lane Gibbs was the 28th White House Press Secretary. Gibbs was the communications director for then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama and Obama's 2008 presidential campaign...

 and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said several times on Sunday talk show
Talk show
A talk show or chat show is a television program or radio program where one person discuss various topics put forth by a talk show host....

s that "the system had worked", a statement that engendered some controversy. The next day they retracted the statements, saying that the system had in fact "failed miserably." According to Napolitano, her initial statement had referred to the rapid response to the attack that included alerts sent to the 128 other aircraft in U.S. airspace at the time, and new security requirements for the final hour of flight, rather than the security failures that allowed the attack to happen. Napolitano had originally stated on This Week
This Week (ABC TV series)
This Week is ABC's Sunday morning political affairs program.The Sunday morning talk show has aired on Sunday mornings on ABC since 1981; the program is initially aired at 9:00 AM ET, although many stations air the program later, especially those in other time zones...

that "once this incident occurred, everything went according to clockwork" and that "once the incident occurred, the system worked".

The day after the attack, the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee
United States House Committee on Homeland Security
The U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security is a standing committee of the United States House of Representatives, the lower house of Congress. Its responsibilities include U.S...

 and Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee
United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
The United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation is a standing committee of the United States Senate in charge of all senate matters related to the following subjects:* Coast Guard* Coastal zone management* Communications...

 both announced that they would hold hearings in January 2010 to investigate how the device passed through security, and whether further restrictions should be placed on air travel; the Senate hearings began on January 21.

Four days after the attack, Obama said publicly that Abdulmutallab's ability to board the aircraft was the result of a systemic failure that included an inadequate sharing of information among U.S. and foreign government agencies. He called the situation "totally unacceptable." He ordered that a report be delivered detailing how some government agencies had failed to share or highlight potentially relevant information about the suspect before he allegedly tried to blow up the airliner. Two days later Obama received the briefing, which included statements that information about the suspect had failed to cross agency lines, and that the failures to communicate within the U.S. government had led to the threat posed by Abdulmutallab not being known by certain agencies until the attack. Obama said he would meet with security officials and specifically question why Abdulmutallab was not placed on the U.S. no-fly list, despite the government having received warnings about his potential al-Qaeda links.

On January 27, 2010, an official from the U.S. State Department said that Abdulmutallab's visa was not revoked because federal authorities believed that it would have compromised a larger investigation. The official, Patrick F. Kennedy, said intelligence officials had told the State Department that letting Abdulmutallab keep his visa would allow for a greater chance of exposing the terrorist network.

See also

  • 1988 Lockerbie Bombing
    Pan Am Flight 103
    Pan Am Flight 103 was Pan American World Airways' third daily scheduled transatlantic flight from London Heathrow Airport to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport...

    , Pan Am plane destroyed by PETN bomb, killing 270 people
  • 1994 Philippine Airlines Flight 434
    Philippine Airlines Flight 434
    Philippine Airlines Flight 434 was the route designator of a flight from Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Pasay City, the Philippines, to New Tokyo International Airport , Narita near Tokyo, Japan, with one stop at Mactan-Cebu International Airport, Cebu, the Philippines.On December 11, 1994...

    , test run for al-Qaeda Operation Bojinka, killing 1 plane passenger in bombing
  • 1995 Bojinka plot, al-Qaeda plot to blow up 12 planes as they flew from Asia to the U.S.
  • 2001 shoe bomb plot, failed al-Qaeda PETN bombing of plane
  • 2006 Transatlantic Aircraft Plot
    2006 transatlantic aircraft plot
    The 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot was a terrorist plot to detonate liquid explosives carried on board at least 10 airliners travelling from the United Kingdom to the United States and Canada...

    , failed plot to blow up at least 10 planes as they flew from the U.K. to the U.S. and Canada
  • 2009 Little Rock military recruiting office shooting
    2009 Little Rock recruiting office shooting
    The 2009 Little Rock recruiting office shooting took place on June 1, 2009, when Muslim convert Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, aka Carlos Leon Bledsoe, opened fire with a rifle in a drive-by shooting on soldiers in front of a United States military recruiting office in Little Rock, Arkansas, in a...

    , al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula-inspired attack by Yemen-trained jihad
    Jihad , an Islamic term, is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates as a noun meaning "struggle". Jihad appears 41 times in the Quran and frequently in the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of God ". A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid; the plural is...

  • 2010 cargo plane bomb plot, failed al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula PETN bombing of plane
  • List of accidents and incidents on commercial airliners
  • List of terrorist incidents, 2009
  • Yemeni al-Qaeda crackdown
    Yemeni al-Qaeda crackdown
    The Yemeni al-Qaeda crackdown refers to military operations by the Yemeni government and the United States government against al Qaeda and related targets in Yemen as part of the Global War on Terror. The crackdown began in 2001 and escalated on January 14, 2010 when Yemen declared open war on al...

  • Flying while Muslim
    Flying while Muslim
    Flying while Muslim or Muslim while flying is an expression referring to the problems Muslim passengers on airplanes can face in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. It is constructed in an analogy to the older expression walking/driving while black, which similarly satirizes racial...

External links

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