Terrorist Tries to Blow Up Plane During Final Approach
The AP via YellowBrix
December 26, 2009
J.P. Karas, 55, of Wyandotte, Mich., said he was driving on a road near the airport and saw a Delta jet at the end of the runway, surrounded by police cars, an ambulance, a bus and television trucks.
“I don’t ever recall seeing a plane on that runway ever before, and I pass by there frequently,” he said.
The FBI’s Detroit office is investigating the incident.
“More information will be available when it is appropriate,” said Sandra Berchtold, an FBI spokeswoman in Detroit.
A statement from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration confirmed that “an incident” had occurred aboard Northwest Flight 253 and that the plane had landed safely in Detroit at 11:53 a.m.
“All passengers have deplaned and, out of an abundance of caution, the plane was moved to a remote area where the plane and all baggage are currently being rescreened,” the statement said. “A passenger is in custody, and passengers are currently being interviewed.”
A spokeswoman for the University of Michigan Health System Ann Arbor, Tracy Justice, confirmed that the hospital had received a patient from the flight. She did not know the passenger’s condition or sex.
The FBI is expected to focus on whether the Nigerian acted alone or had training from al-Qaida or another network. There also will be great interest in the nature and destructive capacity of the explosive device and on how it got past airport screening.
Nigerians have not figured in many cases involving al-Qaida, but the rise of violent Islamic extremism in that country, and in sub-Saharan Africa overall, concerns Western anti-terrorism officials.
The timing and description of the incident recall the attempted attack on a Paris-to-Miami flight eight years ago by “shoe-bomber” Richard Reid, a British al-Qaida operative who was convicted in U.S. federal court of trying to blow up the American Airlines flight.
Soon after takeoff on Dec. 22, 2001, Reid tried to ignite explosives that had been packed into his high-top gym shoes in an attempt to blow a hole in the plane and bring it down. An alert flight attendant and passenger subdued Reid and foiled the attack, which spread fear across the world during the Christmas holidays just three months after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Reid was one of several bombers whom al-Qaida trained in its Afghan camps to commit attacks with concealed explosives aboard planes.
In August 2006, British police working with U.S. and Pakistani intelligence broke up a plot in which al-Qaida trained Britons in Pakistan to assemble sophisticated, liquid-based bombs that would have been smuggled aboard planes in energy drinks and other containers.
The investigation revealed that the technology in that plot was developed in Pakistan by Abu Ubaida al Masri, al-Qaida’s operations chief at the time. It would have involved teams of two or three attackers smuggling aboard the explosives and separate ignition devices to blow up seven planes bound for North America.