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Father alerted US about Nigerian plane bomb suspect

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab with his mother (file image)
Mr Abdulmutallab is from a wealthy Nigerian family

The father of a Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a transatlantic jet on Christmas Day had voiced concerns to US officials about his son.

The father, a top Nigerian banker, warned US authorities last month about 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's extreme views, say officials.

US sources confirm a file was opened, but say the information did not warrant placing the accused on a "no-fly" list.

Airports worldwide have increased security after the alleged attack.

Mr Abdulmutallab was formally charged by a US federal judge at a Michigan hospital where he is being treated for burns after allegedly trying to detonate a device.

British police are also searching a flat in a smart area of London, where Mr Abdulmutallab is believed to have lived while studying in the city.

'Sewn in underpants'

The detainee reportedly smiled as agents brought him in to the room in a wheelchair, dressed in a green hospital robe and with a blanket over his lap.

The Northwest Airlines plane stands at Detroit Metropolitan airport, 26 December
The Northwest Airlines plane had been carrying 278 passengers and 11 crew

High explosives are believed to have been moulded to his body and sewn into his underpants.

He was immediately overpowered by passengers and crew aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253, minutes before it was due to land in Detroit from the Dutch capital Amsterdam.

The suspect was charged with placing a destructive device on the Airbus 330, which was carrying 289 passengers and crew, and attempting to destroy the jet.

UMAR FAROUK ABDULMUTALLAB
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on a school trip to London, 2001/2
Son of a wealthy Nigerian businessman
Attended a British school in Togo
Studied mechanical engineering at University College London
Spent time in Dubai, Yemen and Egypt

His father, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, is a prominent banker well-connected in Nigeria's political world, the BBC's Caroline Duffield reports from Lagos.

In recent months Mr Mutallab is said to have become alarmed about the political views of his son, who is a former engineering student at University College London.

He approached the US embassy in Abuja in November to voice concerns about his son, according to American officials.

The family have told the BBC Hausa service that they lost contact with Mr Mutallab in October, when he was living in Yemen.

He left there for Ethiopia, then went to Ghana and finally Nigeria, US officials have told his family.

How the accused, who had a valid US travel visa, boarded a flight in Lagos to Amsterdam, despite being on a database listing individuals of concern to the authorities, is a key question, our correspondent says.

Anti-terrorist measures in Nigeria's airports are haphazard and corruption among police, customs and security officials is endemic, she adds.

Officials in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, told news agencies that Mr Abdulmutallab's name had been added to a security watch-list of more than half a million individuals, known as Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (Tide).

But there was apparently not enough information to include his name on the smaller Terrorist Screening Data Base, which includes a no-fly list.

It is understood that members of Mr Abdulmutallab's family are travelling to the Nigerian capital Abuja on Sunday to meet police and government officials.

'Nice and polite'

A preliminary FBI analysis has found that the device allegedly found on Mr Abdulmutallab contained the high explosive PETN, also known as pentaerythritol.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's former teacher Mike Rimmer

PETN was used in the device worn by British "shoe bomber" Richard Reid, who is serving a prison sentence for attempting to blow up a Paris-Miami airliner in Christmas week of 2001.

Mr Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to detonate a device using a syringe, but it failed to go off.

The suspect has reportedly told investigators he had links to al-Qaeda and received the explosives in Yemen for a suicide attack, after a month of training.

Mr Abdulmutallab went to the bathroom for about 20 minutes before the incident, court documents say.

When he got back to his seat, he said he had an upset stomach and pulled a blanket over himself, the affidavit continues.

"Passengers then heard popping noises similar to firecrackers, smelled an odour, and some observed Abdulmutallab's pants, leg and the wall of the airplane on fire," the Department of Justice said in a statement.

Dutch tourist Jasper Schuringa, credited with tackling the suspect first, is being hailed as a hero by fans on the internet.

Jasper Schuringa

The 32-year-old Dutch filmmaker said when he heard a bang and smelled smoke he felt immediately it was a terrorist attack.

Mr Schuringa added that the alleged bomber had not become aggressive after the alleged bomb failed to detonate.

"He was actually a normal person, he was very scared, he had a very frightened look, he wasn't resisting or anything," he told the BBC.

"I also spoke later to one of the Dutch people who was sitting next to him and they said he was a really nice and polite man. So he was someone you wouldn't expect to commit a crime like this."

Meanwhile, delays have been caused to transatlantic flights after airlines flying in to and around the US tightened security.

Measures include cutting down on hand baggage, extra frisking of passengers at passport control and allowing more boarding time.

Map of itinerary



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SEE ALSO
Man charged with attack on US jet
26 Dec 09 |  Americas
Profile: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab
07 Jan 10 |  Americas
'Bomb attack bid' on US airliner
26 Dec 09 |  Americas
'Smoke and screams' on board plane
26 Dec 09 |  Americas

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