Al-Qa'ida trains 20 more plane bombers

Other young Muslim men like Abdulmutallab are prepared in Yemen for terror attacks

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab told US investigators that about 20 other young Muslim men were being coached in Yemen to blow up planes using a technique identical to the one he employed, CBS News has reported, quoting a British intelligence source.

The broadcaster said it had also established that part of the investigative focus had switched to Ghana, where Abdulmutallab stayed before flying to Lagos, Nigeria, to begin his mission that ended in smouldering failure as Northwest Flight 253 descended into Detroit on Christmas Day. The FBI has officers on the ground in Ghana and believe it is likely the terrorist may well have had his final al-Qa'ida briefing, and supplied with equipment and explosives, there.

The Nigerian arrived in Accra, Ghana, on 9 December from Ethiopia, and remained there until 24 December, when he made the flight to Lagos. It is now known that the Ghanaian hotel he listed on his immigration form was not the one where he was actually staying. All this was more than a month after his father, a wealthy Nigerian banker, had met officials at the US embassy in Abuja to share concerns about his son.

In a federal court on Friday he looked like the accidental terrorist. Slightly built and in prison trousers that drowned him, Abdulmutallab whispered that, yes, he understood what was going on and, no, the only drugs he had been taking in recent days were painkillers. As for his not-guilty plea, the judge entered that for him.

Was this the man that had broken ties with his father back in Nigeria, travelled into the mountains of Yemen to meet leaders of anti-American jihad and then come within an ace of blowing up an American plane on approach to Detroit? The mission may have failed but it triggered the most sweeping review of US anti-terror policies in years and a tightening of security that means all of us will soon be electronically undressed when we fly.

But as John Brennan, the anti-terrorism director in the White House, noted last week, there may be nothing unlikely about Abdulmutallab at all. Rather, he posited, he is exactly the kind of ordinary person, with no known profile of terror-related activity, that al-Qa'ida will henceforth try to recruit. And we have learned other things about him that fit the new model: he was extremely devout, highly educated and had given voice over the years to loneliness. "Can you be my friend?" he wrote while he was a student at University College London. "I get lonely sometimes because I have never found a true Muslim friend." In the same posting he mused about going to Yemen.

We know now he did that. The "radicalisation" of Abdulmutallab – when devout became devilish – occurred before he left London, a deputy prime minister in Yemen said last week. Of that we cannot yet be sure. The same official confirmed that while in Yemen he visited an American Muslim cleric named Anwar al-Awlaki, who had earlier corresponded via email with the suspect in the Fort Hood massacre in November.

We also know the extent to which Abdulmutallab got lucky, at least in the sense that no one intercepted him before his bomb flashed and went phut as the plane descended. After all, he was allowed on his KLM flight from Lagos on Christmas Eve with a ticket bought with cash and no checked baggage. He strolled on to the plane. Missed too, both there and in Amsterdam, were the explosives in his underpants.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL DBA (2005/2008/2012, projects, storage requirements)

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

Copywriter - Corporate clients - Wimbledon

£21000 - £23000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Copywriter - London As a Copywrite...

Horticulture Lecturer / Tutor / Assessor - Derbyshire

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: As a result of our successf...

Retail Lecturer / Assessor / Tutor - Derbyshire

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education are succ...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried