Details of failed terror attack emerge - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Details of failed terror attack emerge

DETROIT, MI (WWBT) - Arraignment in a hospital bed.

After an attempted terror attack, 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdelmutallab was arrested shortly after Northwest flight 253 landed in Detroit.

The flight he's now charged with trying to destroy with a sophisticated device he had hidden on his body.

For the 278 other passengers aboard the wide-body jet, it was a dramatic end to a Christmas day flight.

"It was terrifying," said passenger Richelle Keepman. "I thought, I think we all though we weren't going to land and we weren't going to make it."

Abdelmutallab's route to that moment began Thursday night in his native Nigeria: he flew on KLM flight 588 from Lagos to Amsterdam.

There, he boarded Northwest 253--and headed for Detroit.

He was in seat 19a--a window seat.

When the pilot announced they were on their final approach, prosecutors say Abdelmutallab got up and went to the restroom.

When he returned, he pulled a blanket over himself up to his neck.

"What we heard at the beginning was a bang--it sounded at first like a balloon being popped," said Keepman.

Passengers said they saw flames as high as two feet, igniting part of the cabin wall.

Passengers and crew subdued him and flight attendants rushed to him with a fire extinguisher.

Abdelmutallab was taken to the front of the plane, two seats away from Melinda Dennis.

"He was completely unemotional," she said. "There was absolutely--just a blank face. There was not recognition of anything occurring, you know, when you looked at him. It just seemed as if he wasn't there you know emotionally."

FBI analysts say Abdelmutallab used an explosive called PETN, widely used by the military.

There are conflicting accounts about whether Abedelmutallab has claimed an Al Qaeda connection, although officials agree there is no solid evidence of any tie.

The officials do say he was on a U.S. terrorist watch list.

"You can be on a watch list but that doesn't mean you're on a no fly list," said terrorism analyst Roger Cressey. "There are multiple lists multiple different types of categories for terrorism databases in the case of this individual he was on the lowest level watch list but there wasn't additional info to make him so suspicious that he was elevated to a no fly list."

The incident has haunting echoes of Richard Reid -- the so-called "shoe bomber."

A British citizen and self-proclaimed Al Qaeda operative, Reid was convicted of terrorism after trying to light the same type of explosive in his shoes on board an light from Paris to Miami eight years ago this week.

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