As Northwest Airlines Flight 253 approached Detroit on December 25, 2009, a 23-year-old Nigerian man attempted to set off an incendiary device aboard the airplane. Identified as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man apparently tried to detonate the explosive but succeeded only in starting a small fire. Passengers who heard sounds like firecrackers reacted and wrestled him to the floor. The jet arriving from Amsterdam was carrying 11 crewmembers and 279 passengers, most of whom had originated in Nigeria. It landed safely and was quickly surrounded by police and emergency vehicles.
No one was injured other than the suspect himself, who suffered serious burns. It is nonetheless being viewed as an act of terrorism. Although authorities say Abdulmutallab appeared to have acted alone, he reportedly claimed at first to have connections to the al Qaeda terrorist network. Abdulmutallab has been charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempted murder, and willful attempt to destroy and wreck an aircraft.
Federal officials previously tracked Abdulmutallab, an engineering student at a London university, in a law enforcement–intelligence database, yet had not put his name on a “no-fly” list. President Obama was critical of the security lapses that failed to stop the alleged bomber from ever boarding the plane, given the information that was available about him. However, he said that the near-disaster was not a particular individual’s or agency’s fault, and he called on intelligence officials to do their jobs better, and faster.
Image © Associated Press
- Terror Attempt Seen as Man Tries to Ignite Device on Jet
This New York Times report describes the failed airline bombing on Christmas Day, 2009.
(Source: New York Times, December 25, 2009)
- Jet Passengers Overpower Would-be Bomber
This Los Angeles Times report includes descriptions of the events onboard the Detroit-bound airliner that barely escaped being blown up.
(Source: Los Angeles Times, December 26, 2009)
- Terror Suspect Indicted in Foiled Airliner Attack
This USA Today article covers the indictment of the Nigerian man suspected in the attempted terrorist attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on December 25, 2009.
(Source: USA Today, January 6, 2010)
Critical Thinking Questions
- Summarize What happened aboard the Amsterdam–Detroit Flight 253 on Christmas Day, 2009?
- Make Inferences Why is the bombing that was foiled being viewed as a security failure?
- Form and Support Opinions What measures might be reasonably taken by free societies to protect the security of airline passengers from terrorists?