This is just coming down tonight. A Nigerian man who says he was working for Al Qaeda tried to blow up Northwest flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit. Here’s the story from the AP:
A Northwest Airlines passenger from Nigeria, who said he was acting on al-Qaida’s instructions, set off an explosive device Friday in a failed terrorist attack on the plane as it was landing in Detroit, federal officials said.
Flight 253 with 278 passengers aboard was 20 minutes from the airport when it sounded like a firecracker had exploded, witnesses said. One passenger jumped over others and tried to subdue the man. Shortly afterward, the suspect was taken to a front row seat with his pants cut off and his legs burned.
The White House said it believed it was an attempted act of terrorism and stricter security measures were quickly imposed on airline travel, but were not specified.
Law enforcement officials identified the suspect as Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab. Others had slightly different spellings.
One law enforcement source said the man claimed to have been instructed by al-Qaida to detonate the plane over U.S. soil.
What is particularly freaky is that my dad was on this same flight only eight days ago on a return business trip to Moscow that connected in Amsterdam.
I’m collecting more information right now.
Update: In a report in the Detroit Free Press, Syed Jafry, who was seating three seats in front of the suspect, said that he heard a pop before the device ignited. Also, passengers were the ones who subdued and detained the suspect:
Syed Jafry of Holland, Ohio, who had flown from the United Arab Emirates, said after emerging from the airport that people ran out of their seats to tackle the man.
Jafry was sitting in the 16th row — three rows behind the passenger — when he heard “a pop and saw some smoke and fire.” Then, he said, “a young man behind me jumped on him.”
Jafry said there was a little bit of commotion for about 10 to 15 minutes. The incident occurred during the plane’s descent, he said.
He said the way passengers responded made him proud to be an American.
Update II: Belmont Club has a lot of information, too.
Update III: This newest attempted terrorist attack has lit a fire in the belly of an Islamic leader in Detroit, who called for Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement so they can “‘stop these maniacs — who in the name of religion — pursue these political goals'”:
A local Islamic leader said he was disturbed by today’s attempted terrorist attack in Detroit and called for Muslims to work with law enforcement to fight terrorism.
“We want to do everything we can to make sure this doesn’t happen,” said Victor Begg, of Bloomfield Hills, head of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan. “We want to be on the front lines to help law enforcement.”
…Begg and the council helped organize an event today where Muslims and Jews worked together to help the needy in metro Detroit on Christmas Day.
“It’s really depressing,” Begg said of the incident today on the plane. “It sets back all the work we do.”
As an aside, if you are at all familiar with the Detroit airport, you will know that one of the main traffic routes airplanes take on final go right over a number of neighborhoods and then over I-94. I’ve driven by the airport a number of times and what makes it so cool is that the planes look so close when they come in for landing that it seems as if you could open your window and reach out and touch them. It’s enthralling to see. If this guy had succeeded in blowing up the plane, many people on the ground could have been killed.