Al-Qaeda Claims Responsibility for Airline Attack; Prosecutors Cancel Court Hearing
Prosecutors today unexpectedly canceled the first court hearing scheduled for the “underpants bomber” — the Nigerian man suspected of trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet en route to Detroit on Friday.
The Justice Department was expected to seek a warrant to take a DNA sample from Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab,, who reportedly told the FBI that he was planning to set off an explosive on the plane, and had been trained by al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen. He’s also said that more such attacks are planned. The criminal complaint against Abdulmutallab can be found here (PDF).
Interestingly, while the 23-year-old Nigerian says he’s associated with al-Qaeda, the Obama administration did not hesitate to treat him as a civilian criminal, rather than as an “unprivileged enemy belligerent,” although arguably the attempt to blow up a civilian plane as a terrorist attack on U.S. soil could have been characterized as an act of war, as the 9/11 terror attacks were for years.
CNN reports today that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is claiming responsibility for the Christmas Day attack.
Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman, would not comment on the decision to charge Abdulmutallab in a civilian court, saying: “At this time, we have no comment on the ongoing investigation or any prosecutorial deliberations — beyond the public charging documents that have been filed in the case.”
Those public documents indicate that the Nigerian man was charged with attempting to destroy the aircraft. He’s been charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan, along with the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
His arraignment was held in the hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan where he is now being treated. Instead of blowing up the plane, Abdulmutallab reportedly set only his crotch and legs and seat 19A of the aircraft on fire.