Christmas Day bomb plot foiled on US-bound flight

A man had to be restrained by fellow passengers after attempting to set off a device on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

The incident occurred when the Northwest Airlines Flight 253, carrying 278 passengers and 11 crew members, was preparing to land.

Law enforcement officials yesterday identified the suspect as Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab. He was described as a Nigerian.

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Farouk is reported to have sufferred burns to his legs during the attempt in which it is believed he mixed together explosive powdery substances.

"It sounded like a firecracker in a pillowcase," said Peter Smith, a passenger from the Netherlands. "First there was a pop, and then (there) was smoke."

Mr Smith said one passenger climbed over other passengers, went across the aisle and tried to restrain the alleged attacker. The heroic passenger appeared to have been burned.

Afterward, Farouk was taken to a front-row seat with his pants cut off and his legs burned.

The White House said it believed it was an attempted act of terrorism and stricter security measures were quickly imposed on airline travel.

One law enforcement official said the man claimed to have been instructed by al-Qaida to detonate the plane over US soil, but other law enforcement officials cautioned that such claims could not be verified immediately, and said the man may have been acting independently.

The man was being questioned last night.

The flight began in Nigeria and went through Amsterdam en route to Detroit, said Peter King, the ranking Republican member of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Delta Air Lines Inc, which acquired Northwest last year, said a passenger caused a disturbance, was subdued, and the crew requested that law enforcement officials meet the flight.

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Federal officials said there would be heightened security for both domestic and international flights at airports across the country, but the intensified levels would likely be "layered," differing from location to location depending on alerts, security concerns and other factors.

Passengers can expect to see heightened screening, more bomb-sniffing dogs and officer units and behavioural-detection specialists at some airports, but there will also be unspecified less visible precautions as well, officials said.

The FBI and the Homeland Security Department issued an intelligence note on November 20 about the threat picture for the holiday season, which was obtained by The Associated Press. At the time, officials said they had no specific information about attack plans by al-Qaida or other terrorist groups.

President Barack Obama was notified of the incident and discussed it with security officials, the White House said. Officials said he is monitoring the situation and receiving regular updates from his vacation spot in


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