- West Africa
- United States
- Aviation - Terrorism
Nigerian U.S. plane terrorist a reminder of al-Qaeda sleeper cells in northern Nigeria
A Nigerian suspected of acting on behalf of al-Qaeda, has been detained in America for attempting to blow up a Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Friday, U.S. officials have said.
Abdul Mudallad, a 23 year-old Nigerian burnt his leg trying to ignite an explosive device on the jet with 278 passengers on board. Mr. Mutallab reportedly told investigators he had links to al-Qaeda and had received the explosives in Yemen.U.S. intelligence official said the explosive device was a mix of powder and liquid. It failed when the passenger tried to detonate it. Mr. Mudallad was an engineering student at University College London.
According to the federal “situational awareness” bulletin: “The subject is claiming to have extremist affiliation and that the device was acquired in Yemen along with instructions as to when it should be used.”
Fellow passengers who smelled smoke and heard cracking sounds reportedly rushed to subdue the Nigerian. Mr. Syed Jafri one of the passengers aboard the airline told MSNBC television network that he had been seated three rows behind the suspect and had seen a glow and noticed a smoke smell. "A young man behind me jumped on him. Next thing you know, there was a lot of panic," Mr. Jafri was quoted.
Another unnamed passenger said he heard a pop sound and saw a smoke and flames, before the suspect was reprimanded. The suspect later told the US authorities he had taped explosive powder to his leg and used a syringe of chemicals to mix with the powder that was to cause explosion, MSNBC reported.
The plane which flew from Amsterdam was to land at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport Friday afternoon. The suspect was reported to have traveled from Lagos international airport in Nigeria on board KLM Flight 588 and made a connection in Amsterdam on to Northwest 253. According to ABC News his visa stated that he was traveling to the US for a religious ceremony. Initial reports were that he had lit firecrackers on board the Airbus 330, which was carrying 278 passengers. According to U.S authorities, Mr. Muttalab was reportedly on a US intelligence “watch-list” but not on the US Government’s no-fly list.
The US House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee chair, Republican Peter King, has said that investigators were looking into whether the incident was part of a larger plot and a worldwide alert had been raised. However additional screening measures has been put into effect since the incident. The aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing shortly before noon when a smoke detector alarm went off.
Conversely, President Obama was notified of the apparent attack while on holiday in Hawaii and received updates throughout the day. He ordered airline security to be tightened, particularly for in-bound flights to the United States.
The Nigerian Diaspora have meanwhile expressed disappointment and concern over the susceptibility of al-Qaeda sleeper cells amongst predominantly Northern Muslim Nigerians. The Nigerian Taliban known as Boko Haram, an anti-western extremist Muslim group that sprung up in Northern Nigeria in July and threatened state civility in Nigeria were armed with machetes, knives, home-made hunting rifles and petrol bombs.
The group went on rampage in several states across Northern Nigeria, attacking churches, police stations, prisons and government buildings, and demanding sharia law for all Nigeria as opposed to democratic western-styled education and ideals.
After the sects uprising in northern Nigeria, many beheaded bodies were found in the sect’s headquarters, including at least three Christian preachers and the second in command of the military operation. Hundreds of sect members were also killed by Nigerian security forces in a major clampdown to dismantle the sect. Over 700 deaths related to the violence was reported.
The presence of an al-Qaeda branch operating across the Sahara Desert in Mauritania, Morocco, Mali and Niger and Nigeria’s porous borders was confirmed when a report submitted to top government officials in 2007 had identified and classified the Boko Haram sect as a "murderous religious group" that had been train by the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat. State Security Service of Nigeria stated that "the group was linked to Al Qaeda through some of its members including Barah Abdul and Mohamed Al-Amin who were in Afghanistan and have strong links with some Al Qaeda leaders".