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Airline attack suspect charged

Photo by Carlos Osorio

Photo by Carlos Osorio

DETROIT -- A 23-year-old Nigerian man who claimed to have ties to al-Qaida was charged Saturday with trying to destroy a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day, as authorities learned his father had warned U.S. officials of concerns about his son.

Some airline passengers traveling Saturday felt the consequences of the frightening attack. They were told that new U.S. regulations prevented them from leaving their seats beginning an hour before landing.

The Justice Department charged that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab willfully attempted to destroy or wreck an aircraft; and that he placed a destructive device in the plane.

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman read Abdulmutallab the charges in a conference room at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he is being treated for burns.

An affidavit said he had a device containing a high explosive attached to his body. The affidavit said that as Northwest Flight 253 descended toward Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Abdulmutallab set off the device -- sparking a fire instead of an explosion.

According to the affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit, a preliminary analysis of the device showed it contained PETN, also known as pentaerythritol.

This was the same material convicted shoe bomber Richard Reid used when he tried to destroy a trans-Atlantic flight in 2001 with explosives hidden in his shoes.

PETN is often used in military explosives and found inside blasting caps. But terrorists like it because it's small and powerful.

The suspect smiled when he was wheeled into the hospital conference room. He had a bandage on his left thumb and right wrist, and part of the skin on the thumb was burned off.

He was wearing a light green hospital robe and blue hospital socks. The judge sat at the far end of a 10-foot table, the suspect at the other end.

Judge Borman asked the defendant if he was pronouncing his name correctly.

Abdulmutallab responded, in English. ''Yes, that's fine.'' The judge asked Abdulmutallab if he understood the charges against him. He responded in English: ''Yes, I do.''

The judge said the suspect would be assigned a public defender and set a detention hearing for Jan. 8. The hearing lasted 20 minutes.

Attorney General Eric Holder made clear that the United States will look beyond Abdulmutallab. He vowed to ''use all measures available to our government to ensure that anyone responsible for this attempted attack is brought to justice.''