We were lucky this time. Abdul Mudallad, 23, a Nigerian man linked to Al Qaeda, attempted to blow up a Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit today — with 278 people on board — as the flight was landing in Detroit. The New York Times reports:
A Nigerian man tried to ignite an explosive device aboard a transatlantic Northwest Airlines flight as the plane prepared to land in Detroit on Friday, in an incident the United States believes was “an attempted act of terrorism,” according to a White House official who declined to be identified.
The device, described by officials as sophisticated and made from a mixture of powder and liquid, failed to fully detonate. Passengers on the plane described a series of pops that sounded like firecrackers.
Nonetheless, federal officials said the man was attempting to bring the plane down.
“This was the real deal,” said Representative Peter King of New York, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, who was briefed on the incident and said something had gone wrong with the explosive device. “This could have been devastating.”
It was unclear how the man, identified by federal officials as Abdul Mudallad, 23, of Nigeria, managed to get the explosive on the plane. A senior administration official said the government did not yet know whether the man had the capacity to take down the plane but that he did have the intent to create trouble.
According to this LA Times piece, the man ended up lighting himself on fire, and the passengers jumped on the man to stop him when they realized what was happening:
Passenger Syed Jafri, a U.S. citizen who had flown from the United Arab Emirates, said the incident occurred during the plane’s descent, according to the Associated Press. Jafri said he was seated three rows behind the passenger and said he saw a glow and smelled smoke. Then, he said, “a young man behind me jumped on him.”
“Next thing you know, there was a lot of panic,” he said.