US investigators on Sunday tried to piece together terrorism connections of a Nigerian man who has been charged with attempting to blow up a US jetliner after reportedly confessing that he had been trained by Al-Qaeda in Yemen.
Airport security was stepped up worldwide after the botched Christmas Day terror attack as British police raided premises where the suspect, the son of a wealthy Nigerian businessman, was thought to have lived while studying at a London university.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was arraigned Saturday at the US hospital where he was being treated for burns sustained while trying to bring down a Northwest Airlines plane with 290 people on board.
Judge Paul Borman read the charges against him during a 20-minute hearing. Reporters allowed to witness the event said Abdulmutallab was handcuffed to a wheelchair and sported bandages on both wrists and parts of his hands.
|An Airport policeman and his bomb-sniffing dog Spencer patrol at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.|
A preliminary FBI analysis found that the device Abdulmutallab used "contained PETN, also known as pentaerythritol, a high explosive," the charge sheet said.
The explosive material was allegedly sewn into Abdulmutallab's underwear, and was not detected by airport security, ABC News reported.
Abdulmutallab confessed that he had mixed a syringe full of chemicals with powder taped to his leg to try to blow up the Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight, according to senior officials quoted by US media.
Officials now believe tragedy was averted only because the makeshift detonator failed to work properly, ABC News said.
Other law enforcement officials quoted by ABC News and NBC said the suspect also said that Al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen trained him, and told him on how to carry out the attack. Related article: Bomb suspect's link to Yemen
The failed attack "shows that we must remain vigilant in the fight against terrorism at all times," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
However, questions mounted whether security at major airports inside and outside the United States was adequate, despite all the recent upgrades. Related article: Airports step up security
The attack, which sparked alarm and fear among the 279 passengers and 11 crew aboard the Airbus A330, had echoes of British-born Richard Reid's botched "shoe-bomb" attempt almost eight years ago to the day.
British police searched addresses in London, including an upscale mansion flat where the suspect is believed to have lived while studying mechanical engineering at University College London (UCL) between 2005 and 2008. Related article: Suspect is linked to Britain
Abdulmutallab's father, Umaru Mutallab, was so worried about his son's religious extremism that he contacted the US embassy in Abuja to express his concern in November, a US official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The official said Abdulmutallab had been added to a broad terrorism watchlist, but was not flagged for mandatory secondary screening or put on a no-fly list. Profile: Flight terror suspect the scion of wealthy Nigerian
US Senator Joseph Lieberman questioned how Abdulmutallab could have still avoided US attention.
Meanwhile the hero of Northwest Airlines Flight 253, Dutch video producer and director Jasper Schuringa, was achieving cult status on the Internet for tackling the would-be bomber and helping the crew to restrain him. Profile: Dutch hero
Schuringa told CNN he had jumped over the passenger next to him and lunged onto Abdulmutallab's seat as the suspect held a burning object between his legs.
"I pulled the object from him and tried to extinguish the fire with my hands and threw it away," said Schuringa, adding that he stripped off the suspect's clothes to check for explosives before a crew member helped handcuff him.
"My hands are pretty burned. I am fine," said Schuringa, who within a day of the attack already had four Facebook sites dedicated in his honor with new members signing up in droves.
The White House and US lawmakers called the incident a terror attack. President Barack Obama, vacationing in Hawaii with his family, ordered security measures to be increased at airports and held a conference call with his security team.
The Department of Homeland Security said it implemented additional flight screening measures, and urged holiday travelers to remain vigilant.
Dutch anti-terrorism officials stressed that proper procedures had been followed on their end of the Northwest Airlines flight, and that US authorities had cleared the flight for departure.
Checks were tightened Saturday at major world airports, including in Paris, Rome and London, but US officials said there were no immediate plans to elevate the nation's aviation threat level from orange to red, its most severe status.