Father of Terror Suspect Raised Concerns With U.S. Embassy


Washington—The father of a man who allegedly attempted to carry out a terrorist attack on board a Northwest flight spoke out with concerns about his son, according to a senior administration official.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, a Nigerian extremist, was able to board Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas day with explosive powder strapped to his leg and a chemical-filled syringe. Shortly before the flight, which originated in Amsterdam and was bound for Detroit, was due to land, Abdulmutallab ignited the the explosive powder, setting it alight. He was subdued by fellow passengers, dragged to the front of the plane and held there until the plane landed.

Abdulmutallab claimed a connection with the terrorist organization Al Qaeda, the Yemeni branch of which has since claimed responsibility for the foiled attack.

New reports indicate that the suspect’s father, Umara Abdulmutallab, had contacted the United States embassy in Nigeria in November. Telling officials that he believed his son had been influenced by religious extremists and might be contemplating a suicide mission, he asked if the U.S. government could help.

The administration official, who has not been named, said that the senior Abdulmutallab also stated that his son had traveled from London to Yemen, allegedly to meet with members of Al Qaeda.

On November 20, the U.S. embassy relayed the man’s concerns to the State Department, which in turn passed the information on to the National Counter-Terrorism Center in Washington. That agency, however, ruled that the information was “insufficient for this interagency review process to make a determination that this individual’s visa should be revoked.”

Abdulmutallab, an engineering student at University College of London, had received a multiple-entry visa, good for two years, in June 2008. According to State Department spokesperson Ian Kelley, it was a standard multiple-entry tourist visa.

“There was nothing in his application, nor in any database at the time, that would warrant that he should not receive a visa,” said Kelley.

Upon hearing a loud popping noise, smelling something burning and witnessing flames shooting from the suspect’s lap—flames that were, according to one witness, as high as the airplane seat—other passengers acted quickly to immobilize the man and douse the fire. One man sustained injuries while attempting to stop the attack, and was treated at the University of Michigan Medical Center. Abdulmutallab, who was severely burned on the legs, was also being treated at the same facility.

The plane, an Airbus 330, was carrying approximately 300 people on the Christmas day flight. In response to the failed attack, the Homeland Security Department has announced that additional screening and security measures may be implemented on future flights.


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