Umar Farouk Mutallab being taken into custody aboard a plane in Michigan after the attempted terror attack. Source: CNN

AN attempted terrorist attack on a Christmas Day flight in the United States of America (US) began with a pop and a puff of smoke, sending passengers scrambling to tackle a Nigerian man who claimed to be acting on orders from al-Qaida to blow up the airliner, officials and travellers said.

The commotion began as Northwest Airlines Flight 253, carrying 278 passengers and 11 crew members from Amsterdam, prepared to land in Detroit just before noon Friday. The flight had originated from Lagos, Nigeria.

Travellers said they smelled smoke, saw a glow, and heard what sounded like firecrackers. At least one person climbed over others and jumped on the man, who officials say was trying to ignite an explosive device.

“It sounded like a firecracker in a pillowcase,” said Peter Smith, a passenger from the Netherlands. “First there was a pop, and then (there) was smoke.”

Smith said one passenger, sitting opposite the man, climbed over passengers, went across the aisle and tried to restrain the man.

The heroic passenger appeared to have been burned. Afterward, the suspect was taken to a front-row seat with his pants cut off and his legs burned. Multiple law enforcement officials also said the man appeared badly burned on his legs, indicating the explosive was strapped there.

The components were apparently mixed in-flight and included a powdery substance, multiple law enforcement and counter-terrorism officials said.

The White House said it believed it was an attempted act of terrorism and stricter security measures were quickly imposed on airline travel. Dutch anti-terrorism authorities said the U.S. has asked all airlines to take extra precautions on flights worldwide that are bound for the United States. The incident was reminiscent of Richard Reid, who tried to destroy a trans-Atlantic flight in 2001 with explosives hidden in his shoes, but was subdued by other passengers.

Multiple law enforcement officials identified the suspect in Friday’s attempted attack as Umar Farouk Abdul Muttalab. He was described as Nigerian.

Senate condemns involvement of Nigerian in terrorist attempt
THE Senate has condemned the alleged involvement of a Nigerian in an aborted terrorist attempt in the United States saying that the Senate was at a loss as to where the Nigerian got his strange habit.

Reacting to the arrest of a Nigerian in the aborted attempt to blow up an American airliner over Detroit in the United States, the Senate appealed to the international community to treat the suspected terrorist in his own merit and not to associate his weird behaviour to other law abiding Nigerians across the world.

Senate spokesman, Senator Ayogu Eze, said: ”We condemn this strange act of terrorism from a Nigerian in very strong terms. We are at a loss where he got this strange habit from. Nigeria abhors terrorism in all its ramifications.

“The Senate therefore frowns at this isolated unfortunate incident. We ask the world to treat him on his own merit and not to associate this horrible conduct with law-abiding Nigerians who are decent and respectable international citizens wherever they are.

“The Senate equally urges Nigerians to rise in condemnation of this naked attempt to smear the image of our dear country. Nobody should import fundamentalism into Nigeria under any guise”

Met Police search London flat in US plane attack probe

*Suspect’s flat costs between £1.5m and £2.5m

POLICE are conducting searches at a mansion block in London in connection with the inquiry into an attempted act of terrorism on a US passenger plane.

Abdul Farouk Abdul Mutallab, 23, a Nigerian being held after the flight to Detroit, is thought to have been a student at University College London, UCL.

Prime minister Gordon Brown said the UK would take “whatever action was necessary” to protect passengers.

UK airport operator BAA said searches for flights to the US would increase. BAA said: “Passengers travelling to the United States should expect their airline to carry out additional security checks prior to boarding.” Meanwhile, a statement on the British Airways website said Washington has revised its security arrangements for all travellers to the US and they would only be allowed one piece of hand luggage.

A BA spokesman said the directive meant US-bound passengers on all airlines would be subjected to additional screening. “We apologise to passengers for any delays to their journeys. Safety and security are our top priorities and will not be compromised.”

Extra resources
UCL said it had a record of a student with a name similar to the man being questioned in the US. A spokesperson said that while the name Abdul Farouk Abdul Mutallab did not appear in its records, a student called Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab was enrolled on a mechanical engineering course between September 2005 and June 2008.

It added: “It must be stressed that the university has no evidence that this is the same person currently being referred to in the media.” Gordon Corera said the British authorities were informed of a possible connection to the
UK on Thursday evening.

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