A Nigerian man believed to be linked to al Qaeda militants was in custody on Saturday after he tried to ignite an explosive device on a U.S. passenger plane as it approached Detroit, U.S. officials said.
The suspect, who suffered extensive burns, was overpowered by passengers and crew on the Christmas Day flight from Amsterdam. The passengers, two of whom suffered minor injuries, disembarked safely from the Delta Air Lines plane.
“We believe this was an attempted act of terrorism,” a White House official told Reuters.
The flight had left Amsterdam on Friday and Dutch counter-terrorism authorities said they were trying to figure out where the suspect had come from, how he had been screened and how he had managed to board the flight.
Representative Peter King of New York, the senior Republican on the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, said the explosive device was “fairly sophisticated,” and the suspect was a 23-year-old Nigerian.
Federal officials identified him as Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, according to The New York Times and the Washington Post. ABC News and NBC News reported that he attends University College London, where he studied engineering.
Abdulmutallab tried to ignite the device or mixture as the aircraft was approaching Detroit, officials said.
King told CNN the suspect was listed in a database as having a connection to militants.
“My understanding is…that he does have al Qaeda connections, certainly extremist terrorist connections, and his name popped up pretty quickly” in a search…
[continues at http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSLDE5BP04420091226?type=marketsNews”>Reuters]