Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

Date Of Birth:
22 December 1986
Place Of Birth:
Lagos, Nigeria
Best Known As:
The Nigerian guy who tried to blow up a plane on Christmas

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is the Nigerian Muslim who tried to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 as it was about to land in Detroit, Michigan on Christmas Day (25 December) of 2009. According to news reports, Abdulmutallab flew KLM Airlines Flight 588 from Lagos to Amsterdam, then switched planes to the Detroit-bound Flight 253. As the plane neared Detroit, he caused a fire in his seat after spending 20 minutes in the bathroom. A passenger, Dutch filmmaker Jasper Schuringa, noticed the flames and jumped Abdulmutallab, finding a burning syringe. When quizzed by a flight crew member, Abdulmutallab said he had an "explosive device." The fire was extinguished, the plane landed and Abdulmutallab was taken into custody and treated for burns. Authorities say he had sewn a device containing explosive chemicals into his underpants, then used a syringe with an activating chemical to detonate the device, but it failed. Abdulmutallab was indicted on 6 January 2010 on charges that included attempted murder and attempted use of a "weapon of mass destruction," and his trial in federal court began on 4 October 2011. Although it's unclear if Abdulmutallab was involved with militants in Yemen, an audio tape released three weeks after the attack purportedly had al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden claiming credit. Abdulmutallab pleaded guilty and was given a life sentence on 16 February 2012.

Raised in Nigeria and Kenya, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab went to high school at the British School in Lomé, Togo, where he was known to be religious -- he was nicknamed "Alfa" and "Pope" for his piety. He studied mechanical engineering at University College London in England between 2005 and 2008, and after graduating went to Dubai for more studies. After a short stay in Dubai he went to Yemen and distanced himself from his family. His father, a prominent Nigerian businessman named Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, is said to have contacted U.S. and Nigerian authorities in November of 2009, to advise them that his son may have become a "radicalized" Muslim. Abdulmutallab was added to a database of over 500,000 names, but did not rise to the level of serious concern before his attempted attack.

Extra Credit

The explosives he allegedly used were pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) and triacetone triperoxide (TATP), the same explosives used by British “shoe bomber” Richard Reid in 2001… Flight 253 had 279 passengers and 11 crew members on board at the time of the attempted attack.

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