Hey dude, your pants are on fire, fellow passenger told terrorist
Court hears dramatic account of Underpants Bomber's murder bid
Published 12/10/2011 | 05:00
"All hell broke loose" on a trans-Atlantic flight as passengers grappled with an al-Qa'ida terrorist who had tried to set off a bomb in his underpants, a court heard yesterday.
The trial of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a former student at University College London, opened in the US with a dramatic account of how he tried to blow up the aircraft as it came in to land at Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.
There were 290 passengers and crew from 26 countries on board. Jonathan Tukel, assistant US attorney, told the court in Detroit: "All of those passengers had plans to be somewhere, all of them except for one. He had a mission for al-Qa'ida. His sole reason for being on Flight 253 was to blow it up, to kill all the other passengers."
The court heard that the Nigerian student hid in the lavatory of the aircraft during the flight from Amsterdam. "He was engaging in rituals. He was preparing to die and enter heaven," Mr Tukel said. "He was praying and perfuming himself to get ready to die."
Mike Zantow, a former soldier who was returning from the Middle East, told the court that less than an hour before landing,Mr Abdulmutallab removed a bag from the locker, took out a toiletries bag and went to the lavatory for 10 to 15 minutes.
When he came back to his seat, he put a blanket over his head and four or five minutes later there was a "large pop", Mr Zantow said. He was not sure where the noise came from, but the passenger next to Mr Abdulmutallab yelled: "Hey man, hey dude, your pants are on fire."
The court heard the bomb had two parts, but only the first detonated, leaving 200g of the PETN plastic explosive intact. Smoke rose from between Mr Abdulmutallab's legs, but he gave no reaction as passengers pulled him from his seat.
Mr Tukel said there was a lot of panic on the plane before two flight attendants arrived with a fire extinguisher. The Northwest Airlines flight descended 3,000ft in a minute to the runway, as the co-pilot radioed there had been a fire on board. Mr Abdulmutallab was taken to business class where he sat naked from the waist down for the rest of the flight, the court heard. A fight attendant asked him if he was in pain, and he admitted he had been carrying an explosive device.
At the University of Michigan Hospital he spoke to FBI officers for 50 minutes, telling them he had gone to Yemen to get involved in jihad against the US. The court was also told Mr Abdulmutallab made a martyrdom video. Mr Tukel said he was ideal for the attack because he spoke fluent English, was a frequent traveller and had a visa to enter the US.
After receiving the bomb in Yemen on December 6 or 7, Mr Abdulmutallab flew to Ghana, Nigeria, then Amsterdam.
In Amsterdam, Mr Abdulmutallab was questioned by security, but he told them he was going to the US to see high school friends.
The trial continues. (© Daily Telegraph, London)