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
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
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
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
January 1, 2010.
"Obama Reviewing Initial Reports on Christmas Day Air Incident".
January 1, 2010.
"Botched plane attack: US looking beyond borders". Business
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.
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