The Christmas Day Bomber: Al Qaeda in Yemen's Latest Plot against Americans
Posted: January 12, 2010
Update: On October 12, 2011, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab pleaded guilty to all charges against him. On February 16, 2012, he was sentenced to life in prison.
While 2009 was marked by an alarming number of terror plots by American Muslim extremists, the failed attack on a transatlantic flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day is a reminder that the serious threat posed to the U.S. by foreign nationals motivated by radical interpretations of Islam has not abated.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian man, was indicted by a federal district court in Michigan on January 6, 2010, on several charges, including attempting to use of a weapon of mass destruction, attempted murder, and willfully attempting to destroy and wreck an aircraft. U.S. authorities have indicated that Abdulmutallab claimed to have links to Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen who allegedly gave him the explosive device and instructions for how to use it.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, claimed responsibility for the attempted attack on December 28, 2009. In its statement, the group praised Abdulmutallab as a "heroic mujahid, martyrdom-seeking brother" who attempted to carry out the attack in direct response to the "unjust American aggression over the Arabian Peninsula." Addressing the American people, the group threatened to "come for you to slaughter, and we have prepared for you men who love death like you love life."
Abdulmutallab issued similar statements in an AQAP video released in April 2010. In the video, Abdulmutallab justified Al Qaeda's actions against the Jews and Christians. "Brotherhood of Muslims in the Arabian Peninsula have [sic] the right to wage Jihad," Abdulmutallab said, "because the enemy is in your land with their armies, the Jews and the Christians and their agents." Abdulmutallab and other apparent Al Qaeda fighters are also shown in the video firing automatic weapons at targets bearing the Jewish star, the British Union Jack, and the letters "UN."
In addition to links to AQAP, 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."
U.S. authorities have reportedly confirmed this claim, saying that intelligence officials uncovered communications between Abdulmuttalab and al-Awlaki, who also reportedly exchanged over a dozen emails with Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged gunman of the Fort Hood shooting that left 13 people dead and 32 others wounded in November 2009.
Abdulmuttalab's apparent plot is the latest in a series of plots in the U.S. by Americans and foreign nationals in 2009.