Lagos — [NOTE: The plane from Amsterdam to Detroit was Northwest Airlines Flight 253, operated by Delta Airlines.]
The young man, who yesterday night attempted to ignite an explosive device aboard a Delta Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, Michigan in the United States has been identified as Abdul Farouk Umar Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old son of Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, former First Bank chairman. Mutallab, a former minister and prominent banker recently retired from the bank's board.
The older Mutallab, as at the time of filing this report, had just left his Katsina hometown for Abuja to speak with security agencies, family sources say. According to the family members, Mutallab has been uncomfortable with the boy's extreme religious views and had six months ago reported his activities to United States' Embassy, Abuja and Nigerian security agencies.
The older Mutallab was said to be devastated on hearing the news of Abdul Farouk's attempted bombing arrest. A source close to him said he was surprised that after his reports to the US authorities, the young man was allowed to travel to the United States.
The family home of the Mutallabs in Central London, is currently being searched by men of the Metropolitan Police.
THISDAY checks reveal that the suspect, Abdulfarouk Umar Muttalab who is an engineering student at the University College, London had been noted for his extreme views on religion since his secondary school days at the British International School, Lome, Togo.
At the secondary school, he was known for preaching about Islam to his schoolmates and he was popularly called "Alfa", a local coinage for Islamic scholar. After his secondary school, the young man, family sources said went to University College London to study engineering and later relocated to Egypt, and then Dubai. While in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, he declared to his family members that he did not want to have anything to do with any of them again.
His father, Muttalab is a regular visitor to the US where he visits for medical check up and holidays. He is expected to issue a statement later today.
Muttalab is married to an Arab of Yemeni-descent. However, THISDAY could not confirm at the time of filing this report if the woman is the mother of the young man now receiving treatment in Ann Harbor Hospital, Detroit, for burns suffered while he was trying to detonate the explosive device in the plane.
Meanwhile, Prof. Dora Akunyili, minister of information and communications, has issued the following statement: " Federal Government of Nigeria received with dismay the news of an attempted terrorist attack on a US airline. We state very clearly that as a nation, we abhor all forms of terrorism. The Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has directed Nigerian security agencies to commence full investigation of the incident. While steps are being taken to verify the identity of the alleged suspect and his motives, our security agencies will cooperate fully with the American authorities in the on-going investigations. Nigerian government will be providing updates as more information becomes available."
Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, had caused panic when he tried to detonate some explosive device strapped to his leg on Christmas Day while the US airliner was about to land at Detroit Metro Airport with 278 people on board.
Abdulmutallab was said to have been overpowered by passengers after the failure of the device to ignite properly. He is currently being questioned by the FBI, according to a senior US official. A passenger, identified as Jasper Schuringa, told CNN that with the aid of the cabin crew, he helped subdue and isolate Abdulmutallab.
Agency reports quoted the US federal law enforcement and airline security agencies say Abdulmutallab was taken into custody and is being treated for second- and third-degree burns on his thighs. Reports said the remains of the device the suspect detonated have been sent to an FBI explosives laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, for analysis.
Even with the initial official impression that the suspect was acting alone and did not have any formal connections to organised terrorist organisations, there are reports that he was indeed a hard-core, trained al-Qaeda operative. Abdulmutallab was quoted in a US federal security bulletin to have admitted having extremist ties and saying the explosive device "was acquired in Yemen along with instructions as to when it should be used".
Statement from Representative Peter King of New York, the senior Republican on the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, was quoted as branding the explosive device "fairly sophisticated". "(The device) appears to be different from what we've encountered before," Mr King told Fox News. "My understanding also is that while (the suspect) is not on a watch list, he definitely has terror connections.
"There is a terrorist nexus leading towards al-Qaeda involving this assailant. When it did go off he himself was seriously injured, my understanding is he has third-degree burns. This could have been catastrophic."
Abdulmutallab, according to sources, flew into Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport on a KLM flight from Lagos and is not believed to be on any "no fly" list. This is despite his name appearing in a US database of people with suspect connections. An administration official also said he did not undergo secondary security screening in Amsterdam. It was from here he transferred to Northwest Airlines - which is undergoing a merger with Delta Airlines - for the nine-hour flight to Detroit in an Airbus A330-330.
US President Barack Obama, who was holidaying in Hawaii, acting on briefing on the incident, instructed in a subsequent discussion with security advisers "that all appropriate measures be taken to increase security for air travel".
Direct fallout of this incident is more rigorous security checks by airlines. A spokesperson for BAA said British passengers travelling to the US should expect their airline to carry out additional security checks prior to boarding.
"To support this important process, which will take time, we would advise passengers to leave more time to check in and limit the amount of baggage being taken on board the aircraft," she added.
"If in any doubt, please contact the relevant airline for further information."
A Department of Homeland Security statement Friday told air passengers that they "may notice additional screening measures put into place to ensure the safety of the travelling [sic] public on domestic and international flights."
Abdulmutallab's trip began in Lagos, Nigeria where he boarded a KLM airline flight to Amsterdam and connected with Northwest Delta airline to Michigan, USA.