The 23-year-old man suspected of trying to bring down a Northwest Airlines jet that landed in Detroit, Michigan, is the son of a man who recently stepped down as chairman of a bank in Nigeria, a family source told CNN.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is the son of former First Bank PLC chairman Alhaji Umar Mutallab, according to the relative in Kaduna, in northern Nigeria.
Abdulmutallab suffered burns when he ignited a small explosive device aboard the plane; he was hospitalized in Michigan for his burns. His plans were foiled by crew members and passengers.
The family source told CNN that Abdulmutallab received a college degree in London, England, where he lived for three years.
A spokesman at the University College of London told CNN on Saturday that a student by the name of Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab was enrolled in the department of mechanical engineering from September 2005 to June 2008. Dave Weston said the college could not confirm whether the former student and Abdulmutallab are the same person.
The last time Abdulmutallab’s family heard from him was two months ago, when they received a text message, the family source said. Abdulmutallab told the family earlier that he had gone to Yemen.
Abdulmutallab went through “normal security procedures” in Amsterdam, and those were “well-performed,” the Netherlands’ national coordinator for counterterrorism told CNN.
Witnesses said they heard a loud pop or bang and saw something burning in Abdulmutallab’s lap.
Passenger Jasper Schuringa told CNN that with the aid of the Northwest flight’s cabin crew, he helped subdue and isolate Abdulmutallab. Crew members and passengers extinguished the small fire.
Schuringa said he saw that Abdulmutallab was holding a burning object between his legs.
Abdulmutallab, who is from Nigeria, was taken into custody and hospitalized with second- and third-degree burns on his thighs, according to federal law enforcement and airline security sources. The suspect was “talking a lot” to the FBI, said a senior U.S. official.
Another person was taken to the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, about 25 miles away, hospital spokeswoman Tracy Justice said.
The remains of the device were sent to an FBI explosives lab in Quantico, Virginia, for analysis, security sources said.
No other suspicious materials were found on the plane or in luggage, the law enforcement and airline security sources said. The suspect had only carry-on luggage.
The plane, an Airbus 330 with Delta Air Lines markings, landed shortly before noon. It was carrying 278 passengers. Delta is the parent company of Northwest.
The sources told CNN that the suspect flew into Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam on a KLM flight from Lagos, Nigeria, and is not believed to be on any “no fly” list, although his name does appear in a U.S. database of people with suspect connections. He did not undergo secondary security screening in Amsterdam, an administration official said.
The initial impression is that the suspect was acting alone and did not have any formal connections to organized terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, said an official who is familiar with the investigation.
Abdulmutallab, however, claimed to have extremist ties and said the explosive device “was acquired in Yemen along with instructions as to when it should be used,” a federal security bulletin obtained by CNN said.
President Obama, who is spending the holidays in Hawaii, was briefed on the incident and directed “that all appropriate measures be taken to increase security for air travel,” said White House spokesman Bill Burton. Obama made no changes to his schedule, Burton said.
An official with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration told CNN there will be increased security at airports, and screening likely will take longer. No details were provided on all the steps being taken.
The official advised travelers to allow for extra time before their flights. There will be no changes in screening requirements, and no change in the number of carry-on bags allowed.
A note was released earlier this week by the Office of Intelligence and Analysis that said FBI officials “currently have no specific, credible intelligence indicating plans by al Qaeda or other terrorist groups to conduct attacks in the United States during the 2009 holiday season.”
In London, counterterrorism police officers were searching buildings and making inquiries Saturday at the request of U.S. authorities, a Metropolitan Police spokeswoman told CNN.
Home Secretary Alan Johnson said he is following developments closely and has assured the public that police in Britain are working closely with U.S. investigators “to uncover the full background to the incident.”
In Nigeria, the government on Saturday said it “received with dismay the news of attempted terrorist attack on a U.S. airline” and has ordered its security agencies to investigate the incident.
“While steps are being taken to verify the identity of the alleged suspect and his motives, our security agencies will cooperate fully with the American authorities in the on-going investigations,” said Professor Dora Akunyili, Nigeria’s minister of information and communications.
“We state very clearly that as a nation, we abhor all forms of terrorism.”