Christmas Day, Northwest Airlines Flight 253 Underwear Bomber Gets Life


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Christmas Day, Northwest Airlines Flight 253 Underwear Bomber Gets Life

By Eddy Metcalf

February 19, 2012 - Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called “underwear bomber,” was sentenced on Thursday to life in prison as a result of his guilty plea to all eight counts of a federal indictment charging him for his role in the attempted Christmas Day 2009 bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253. The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Nancy G. Edmunds in Detroit. 

Abdulmutallab, 25, of Kaduna, Nigeria, pleaded guilty on Oct. 12, 2011, to conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism transcending national boundaries; attempted murder within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States; willfully placing a destructive device on an aircraft, which was likely to have endangered the safety of the aircraft.

Abdulmutallab also pleaded guilty to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction; willfully attempting to destroy and wreck a civil aircraft; and three counts of possession of a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence. 

“As this investigation and prosecution have shown, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is a remorseless terrorist who believes it is his duty to kill Americans. For attempting to take the lives of 289 innocent people, he has been appropriately sentenced to serve every day of the rest of his life in prison,” said Attorney General Holder. “Sentence once again underscores the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in both incapacitating terrorists and gathering valuable intelligence from them.” 

“On behalf of the victims, we are gratified that this al Qaeda terrorist has been defeated and will spend the rest of his life in prison, where he can never hurt innocent civilians again. I am very proud of the work of our prosecutors and agents in Detroit. Their work shows that the civilian court system is a valuable mechanism for obtaining intelligence and convicting terrorists with the legal certainty and transparency that instills public confidence in American justice,” said U.S. Attorney McQuade.   

“The case against Abdulmutallab was a combination of the hard work and dedication of FBI personnel as well as multiple federal, state, and local agencies. Those individuals who experienced Christmas Day 2009 first-hand should be rest assured that justice has been done.” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Arena.

“When it counted most, under pressure and in the heat of the moment, the metro Detroit law enforcement community responded as one and acted decisively,” said HSI Special Agent in Charge Moskowitz. “Their collective actions epitomized the concept of ‘one team, one fight’ and showed the power of collaboration in the protection of our homeland.” 


According to the indictment filed in this case, in August 2009, Abdulmutallab traveled to Yemen for the purpose of becoming involved in violent “jihad” on behalf of al Qaeda. There, he conspired with other al Qaeda members to bomb a U.S. aircraft over U.S. soil and received an explosive device for that purpose.  

Abdulmutallab traveled with the bomb concealed in his underwear from Yemen to Africa and then to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where he boarded Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009. The bomb contained PETN and TATP, two high explosives, and was designed to be detonated with a syringe containing other chemicals. 

Abdulmutallab’s purpose in taking the bomb on board Flight 253 was to detonate it during flight, causing the plane to crash and killing the 290 passengers and crew members on board. As Flight 253 was on descent into Detroit Metropolitan Airport, the defendant detonated the bomb, which resulted in a fire, but otherwise did not fully explode. Passengers and flight attendants tackled the defendant and extinguished the fire.

This investigation was conducted by the Detroit Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is led by the FBI and includes U.S. Customs and Border Protection, HSI, the Federal Air Marshal Service and other law enforcement agencies. Additional assistance has been provided by the Transportation Security Administration, the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the Wayne County Airport police, as well as international law enforcement partners.

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