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Christmas Day
Airplane Bomber 2009

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Home > Terrorism > Terrorism Incidents > Underwear Bomber

On Christmas Day of 2009 a Nigerian citizen attempted to blow up an airplane carrying almost 300 passengers and crew with an improvised explosive device. The explosive device was taped to his leg under his clothing. He has since been referred to as the "Underwear Bomber". The airliner was on final approach to Detroit airport on a Northwest Airlines flight when the terrorist tried to set off the bomb.  The bomb failed to detonate properly, the bomber was subdued by passengers, and the plane landed safely.  The bomber was soon identified and linked to an al Qaeda group operating out of Yemen.  Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack.  The flight, Northwest Airlines Flight 253, originated in Amsterdam and had 278 passengers on board.

The Terrorist.  The terrorist was a Nigerian citizen who attended the University College London.  He fell in with al Qaeda and evidently attended a training camp in Yemen for over a month.  His name is Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab and he was 23 years old at the time of the attempted bombing.  His father had alerted American authorities in Nigeria to his sons radical activities.

What Happened.  When the terrorist attempted to set off the board it did not function properly.  The terrorist was burned and then subdued by fellow passengers.  He was taken into custody, treated and held overnight in an hospital, and then transferred to a federal facility.

Links to al Qaeda.  Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility.  The terrorist has confessed that he was working on behalf of al Qaeda. 

Training in Yemen.  The terrorist said  that he picked up the incendiary device and received instructions on its use in Yemen.  He entered Yemen on the pretext of learning Arabic Studies.  He was enrolled at the Institute for the Arabic Language in San'a, Yemen.  San'a is the capital city of Yemen.  He was already a good Arabic speaker.  Yemen is a poor country on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.  The northern part of Yemen is a lawless area and a haven for extremist groups to include al Qaeda.  Abdulmutallab spent part of 2004-2005 and August to December 2009 in Yemen.  He overstayed his visa in Yemen but was allowed to leave on December 7th where he flew to Ethiopia.  From Ethiopia he flew on to Ghana where he bought his ticket that would take him from Lagos, Nigeria to Amsterdam and then on to Detroit.

The Bomb Device.  Initial reports are that the terrorist taped some material to his leg.  Once on the airplane he used a syringe to mix some chemicals with the powder. It appears that the explosive device did not work as planned because of the would-be bomber wore the same underwear for two weeks; thus degrading the explosive material. 1.


News Articles About the Underwear Bomber

October 12, 2011.  "Underwear bomber pleads guilty, draws reaction on trial venue".  Government Security News.

January 1, 2010.  "Not So Isolated, And More Than Extremist".  Read how Obama has difficulty applying the word "terrorist" to the Christmas Day bomber.  Forbes.com.

January 1, 2010.  "Obama Reviewing Initial Reports on Christmas Day Air Incident".  Business Week.

January 1, 2010.  "Botched plane attack: US looking beyond borders".  Business Standard.

December 31, 2009.  "Arabic Study May Have Been Cover For Bomb Suspect".  WMTW ABC 8.

December 26, 2009.  "Plane survives apparent terror attack".  Portland Press Herald.

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Endnotes

1. For more on the degradation of the explosive device due to 'poor hygiene' see "Underwear bomber plot failed because he wore same pants for two weeks", The Telegraph, July 25, 2014 at this link.

 


 

 

 

 

 

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