Page last updated at 06:25 GMT, Saturday, 26 December 2009

Detroit airliner incident 'was failed bomb attack'

Northwest Airlines Flight 253 plane after landing in Detroit
The plane was carrying 278 passengers

An incident on an airliner arriving in the US city of Detroit from Amsterdam in the Netherlands was a failed bomb attack, senior US officials say.

Sources say a man burnt his leg trying to ignite explosives on the jet, which had 278 passengers and 11 crew aboard, but nobody else was seriously hurt.

In custody, the Nigerian suspect said he had been acting on behalf of al-Qaeda, a police source said.

President Barack Obama has ordered increased security for air travel.

Passengers from the flight described what they saw during the incident

The White House spokesman Bill Burton said the president was monitoring the situation.

Northwest Airlines Flight 253 had been about 20 minutes away from landing at Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Friday afternoon when the incident occurred.

Reports quote officials as saying the suspect seems to have tried to ignite some kind of incendiary device.

Melinda Dennis, a passenger, said the man had been severely burned on one leg, and a fire extinguisher and water were used to put out the fire.

1995: Al-Qaeda plots to blow up US airliners over the Pacific in "Operation Bojinka"
2001: Briton Richard Reid tries to blow up a Paris-Miami flight with 197 people on board using explosives hidden in his shoes
2006: Police in Britain foil a series of attacks on transatlantic flights using liquid bombs disguised as soft drinks

Another passenger, Syed Jafri, said he had been seated three rows behind the suspect and had seen 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," Mr Jafri added.

As the suspect was being tackled, he was reportedly shouting and a passenger said she had heard the word "Afghanistan".

'Taped to his leg'

Another unnamed passenger heard a "little pop", then saw "a bit of a smoke and then some flames".

A robot, followed by an official, approaches the airliner as it stands at Detroit airport
A robot could be seen examining the plane with an official nearby

After "yelling and screaming", the passenger added, "they took him out and it was really quick".

The suspect later told the US authorities he had had explosive powder taped to his leg and used a syringe of chemicals to mix with the powder that was to cause explosion, the ABC television network reports.

A US intelligence official quoted by AP said an explosive device had been used consisting of a "mix of powder and liquid".

Peter King, who sits on the US House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, said the suspect had third-degree burns.

The New York Republican named the detainee as Abdul Mudallad, 23, a Nigerian national whose name, he said, was in a database indicating "a significant terrorist connection" although it did not appear on a "no-fly" list.


Mr Mutallab, whose name was given elsewhere as Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, reportedly told investigators he had links to al-Qaeda and had received the explosives in Yemen.

According to some US and Dutch media reports, he is a student at University College London.

Mr King also said investigators were looking into whether the incident was part of a larger plot and a "worldwide alert" had been raised.

The Department of Homeland Security said "additional screening measures" had been put into effect since the incident.

At least one passenger was taken to the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor.

Susan Elliott, a spokeswoman for Delta, Northwest's parent company, said the airline was co-operating with the investigation.

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