Metro Plane Event Was Terror Attempt
POSTED: Friday, December 25, 2009
UPDATED: 9:30 pm EST December 25, 2009
ROMULUS, Mich. -- U.S. officials say a Northwest Airlines passenger from Nigeria said he was acting on behalf of al-Qaida when he tried to blow up a flight Friday as it landed in Detroit.
Law enforcement officials are now identifying the Nigerian man who's suspected of trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines plane as Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab.
One of the U.S. intelligence officials said the explosive device was a mix of powder and liquid. It failed when the passenger tried to detonate it.
NBC News reported two people noticed the man attempting to ignite a substance and a third person jumped up and subdued him.There was nothing out of the ordinary until the flight was on final approach to Detroit, said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory. That is when the pilot declared an emergency and landed without incident shortly thereafter, Cory said in an e-mail message. The plane landed at 11:51 a.m. EST.
NBC reports the man told investigators he wanted to set off a bomb over the United States and the incident is being handled as a possible terrorism attack by both law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
Officials said the man is being treated at the burn unit of the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor.Delta Air Lines identified the flight as Northwest 253. It was carrying 278 passengers.Passenger Syed Jafri, a U.S. citizen who had flown from the United Arab Emirates, said the incident occurred during the plane's descent. Jafri said he was seated three rows behind the passenger and said he saw a glow, and noticed a smoke smell. Then, he said, "a young man behind me jumped on him.""Next thing you know, there was a lot of panic," he said.
Rich Griffith, a passenger from Pontiac, said he was seated too far in the back to see what had happened. But he said he didn't mind being detained on the plane for several hours. "It's frustrating if you don't want to keep your country safe," he said. "We can't have what's going on everywhere else happening here."
On Friday evening, the Department of Homeland Security released the following statement: "Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has been briefed on the incident aboard Northwest Airlines flight #253 and is closely monitoring the situation. Passengers may notice additional screening measures put into place to ensure the safety of the traveling public on domestic and international flights. As always we encourage the traveling public to be observant and aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious behavior or activity to law enforcement officials. We encourage those with future travel plans to stay in touch with their airline."
The White House issued a statement saying President Obama was informed about the incident as he vacationed in Hawaii. The President spoke with his Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism advisors. The statement said the President "instructed that all appropriate measures be taken to increase security for air travel. The President is actively monitoring the situation and is receiving regular updates."