First, the basics: 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to ignite an explosive device on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Friday, but was overcome by quick-thinking passengers who restrained him and put out the flames. Abdulmutallab, who suffered second- and third-degree burns, was charged yesterday with trying to bring down the aircraft.
The well-to-do Nigerian was no stranger to authorities, either, as he appeared on a list of those with suspected ties to terrorism -- a list numbering half a million people or so -- that is shared between countries. But he wasn't on a watch list that prevented him from flying or subjected him to additional rigorous screening procedures, despite his father, a prominent Nigerian banker, going to the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, in November to warn authorities about his son's increasingly radical Islamic views. Abdulmutallab, who had studied in London from September 2005 to June 2008, left school to travel, including to Yemen, and had been turned away from trying to re-enter Britain earlier this year on a student visa for a school that didn't exist.
And here's what we know:
Abdulmutallab reportedly claimed that he was operating under al-Qaida instructions to detonate the plane over U.S. soil. The fact that he'd gone to Yemen, as he claims, would reinforce this, considering the country being an al-Qaida stronghold and the staging ground for attacks such as the USS Cole, as well as many in private industry being steady financing source for the terrorist group. The plastic explosive, which obviously clears airport metal detectors, is PETN, which was the same that al-Qaeda operative "shoe bomber" Richard Reid used in his soles when he tried to blow up American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami in 2001. In fact, Abdulmuttalab reportedly tried to use 80 grams of PETN to Reid's 50 grams, more than enough to blow a hole in the plane. (The New York Post has more on the "crotch bomb" sewed into Abdulmuttalab's underwear.) Amsterdam, Abdulmuttalab's point of origin, is no stranger to Islamic radicalism. The Netherlands, after all, is the country where Muslim immigration has been a clashing point, where filmmaker Theo van Gogh was slain for making a film deemed insulting to Islam, where MP Geert Wilders made the film "Fitna." Though it's unclear at this point if Abdulmuttalab simply flew through here on his way from Lagos or made contact with others at this point.
This incident does continue the recent news trend of family members alerting authorities about radicalization of their kin, which is refreshing to see.
(Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)