The Christmas Day Bomber: Al Qaeda in Yemen's Latest Plot against Americans
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab
Posted: January 12, 2010
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was born into a wealthy family in Nigeria in 1986. He attended a British boarding school in Lome, Togo, and studied mechanical engineering at the University College London from 2005 to 2008, where he reportedly served as the president of the Islamic Society.
Abdulmutallab began posting messages on an international Islamic forum called Gawaher, including posts revealing his apparent interest in Muslim dominance. "I imagine how the great jihad will take place, how the muslims [sic] will win, insha Allah and rule the whole world, and establish the greatest empire once again!!!"
In another post to the forum around the same time, Abdulmutallab provided several links to Islam Online, a Web-based publication connected to Sheik Yusuf Qaradawi, a radical Muslim Brotherhood ideologue based in Qatar who has a long record of inciting violence against Jews and Israel.
While deciding which university to attend, Abdulmutallab indicated on the message board that he would have preferred to go to a university in California, but if the U.S. universities didn't work out, "which seems like it won't for many reasons, including reasons i [sic] haven't yet mentioned in this thread," then he would attend a school in the UK.
After graduating from college in June 2008, Abdulmutallab obtained a two-year visitors visa to the U.S. from the American Consulate in London and he visited Houston two months later. In Houston, Abdulmutallab reportedly attended a class at the Al Maghrib Institute, an institute that comprises a group of predominantly Saudi-educated Imams and Sheikhs who provide short intensive courses on Islam in ten different U.S. cities and four cities in Canada. Several of the instructors at the Institute have delivered anti-Semitic and anti-Christian sermons, including the founder of Al Maghrib, Mohammad Alshareef, who gave a sermon titled "Why the Jews Were Cursed" while he was teaching at Al-Huda School in College Park, Maryland.
Following his 16-day trip to the U.S., Abdulmutallab first moved to Egypt and then to Dubai, where he reportedly started studying for a master's degree at the Dubai campus of the University of Wollongong of New South Wales, Australia, before dropping out and moving to Yemen. Abdulmutallab reportedly claimed that he lived with a leader of AQAP for about a month while he trained for the attack. A Saudi citizen described by Abdulmutallab as an Al Qaeda bomb maker also joined him during his training, according to authorities.
In the fall of 2009, Abdulmutallab reportedly met in Yemen with Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. born Muslim cleric living in Yemen who targets English-speaking Muslim audiences with radical online lectures that encourage attacks against the West and non-Muslims. Al-Awlaki, who admitted to this meeting in an interview in January 2010, reportedly said to the journalist, "I support what he did, as America supports Israel's killing of Palestinians, and its killing of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq."
During a previous visit to Yemen in 2005, Abdulmutallab reportedly attended lectures at Al-Iman University given by al-Awlaki. Evidence reportedly collected by law enforcement agents in Britain shows that Abdulmutallab followed al-Awlaki's blog and Web site. Al-Awlaki has also influenced several other convicted terrorists in the U.S., including Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged gunman of the Fort shooting that left 13 people dead and 32 others wounded, who reportedly exchanged more than a dozen emails with al-Awlaki.
Abdulmutallab has admitted to U.S. officials that AQAP made the device intended to explode on the airplane in Yemen and gave it to him. However, a Yemeni authority has claimed that Abdulmutallab actually received the explosives in the Lagos airport before boarding a flight to Amsterdam and then to Detroit.
The device consisted of a packet of powder and a syringe with liquid sewn into his underwear. According to the affidavit filed against Abdulmutallab, the device contained 80 grams of the powerful military explosive PETN, which is the same material convicted "shoe bomber" Richard Reid used when he tried to destroy a transatlantic flight in December 2001. Another failed suicide bomber with links to AQAP, Abdullah Hassan Tali Assiri, also reportedly tried to use PETN in an attempt to assassinate a member of Saudi Arabia's royal family in August 2009.