Nigerian Man Held in Terror Attempt

Suspect was on extremist watch lists.

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Airport Security Measures Tightened - Getty Images

His own father was so worried about his involvement with extremist groups that he informed U.S. authorities about him. His name was on American security watch lists. Yet Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab cleared security in Lagos and Amsterdam and was able to board a Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit. When he attempted to set off an explosive device fellow passengers were able to subdue him and put out the fire he had started. He was arrested when the plane landed in Detroit. The White House says it was an act of “attempted terrorism.”

The motives of the 23-year-old still are not known, but details of his background have begun to emerge. Nigeria’s This Day newspaper identified the man detained as the son of a prominent Nigerian banker and former minister, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab. The elder Mutallab recently retired as chairman of First Bank, a major Nigerian bank. The paper quoted members of his family saying that Mutallab had become so concerned about his son’s extremist religious views that he had reported him to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria and to Nigerian security officials.

Police in London were said to be searching an apartment where the young Mutallab was believed to have lived while an engineering student at University College in London. This Day, the Nigerian newspaper, said he had held extreme views since his secondary school days at the British International School in Lome, Togo. He was known in high school as as "Alfa,"  a local term for an Islamic scholar, because he liked to preach about Islam to his schoolmates.

The New York Times, citing a senior Homeland Security official, said the device was made from a mixture of powder and liquid and was more incendiary than explosive. The official said Abdulmutallab told law enforcement authorities he had explosive powder taped to his leg and used a syringe filled with chemicals to mix with the powder in an attempt to cause an explosion."

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said security measures had been stepped up. The attempt appeared similar to one eight years ago when a British-born man, Richard Reid, tried but failed to blow up a trans-Atlantic jumbo jet by lighting explosives stuffed into his shoes. Reid, a follower of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, is serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison.

The suspect is being treated for second- and third-degree burns on his thighs caused by the device he allegedly tried to explode. The remains of the device have reportedly been shipped to an FBI explosives lab in Quantico, Virginia for further analysis.

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