A “world-wide alert” has been sounded after passengers on a plane coming into Detroit overpowered a man who was trying to ignite an explosive device. The US called it “an attempted act of terrorism” and authorities said they were making sure it is not “part of a larger scheme”.
The perpetrator, a 23-year-old Nigerian suspected of links with al Qaeda militants, is in US custody. Meanwhile, UK police searched premises in central London, where the son of a prominent banker was said to have studied engineering at University College.
US sources said the device used powder and liquid. British counter-terrorism expert Sally Leivesley predicted a radical change in aircraft departure procedures:
“Airside security suddenly needs to be very important because those devices can go in airside. What we are also seeing is we may now have to sniff everyone, and fortunately there is a lot of detection to sniff people. Because going through anything that will just detect metals is not now going to show if the body is being used as the platform or the receptacle for these explosives and there is no metal. W have to actually get very clever indeed.”
American officials identified their prisoner as Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab. He flew KLM from Lagos to Amsterdam, where he passed through a security checkpoint. On one of the busiest travel days of the year, he then joined the more than 270 passengers boarding the Delta Northwest Airlines flight.
He made his attempt hours later as the plane was making its approach on Detroit, and suffered extensive burns. Air travellers are being advised they may experience more scrutiny now.