Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

Nigerian Man With AQ Affiliation Attempts to Blow Up Passenger Airliner: Some Raw Analysis

Posted in United States by Dan on December 28, 2009

Nigerian with ties to Al'Qaeda detained by authorities

As Americans across the country were enjoying time with family and friends on Christmas Day, other Americans were experiencing a frightening journey.  Upon descending to Detroit, Michigan on the Christmas Holiday, passengers aboard Northwest Airlines Flight #253 were forced to fight-back a terrorist who was attempting to detonate explosives and blow-up the plane.

The White House has already called this incident an apparent terrorist attack, and Director Janet Napolitano of the Department of Homeland Security has already declared her order to boost preventive security measures in airports across the nation- measures that will include additional physical screening on passengers- in order to deter anymore slip-ups.

Besides the fact that Farouk Abdulmuttallab- the Nigerian charged with the attack- managed to fool security personnel in Amsterdam despite having explosives in his possession, this preliminary story shows us that terrorism against the United States is still alive and well.

While it is certainly true that U.S. Military Forces have made tremendous strides against Al’Qaeda’s leadership (our soldiers should be commended for their brave efforts in keeping the United States safe), U.S. counterterrorism officials are still acting in a passive fashion against groups and individuals sympathetic to AQ’s ideology.  While Al’Qaeda may be virtually out of the picture in Afghanistan, its core leadership base is surviving quite comfortably in neighboring Pakistan; thanks to Pakistan’s reluctance in expanding their fight against Islamic militants into North Waziristan.

And of course, we cannot discount Yemen and Somalia’s increasingly pervasive role in international terrorism.  Al Qaeda may be absent in Afghanistan, but the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa are quickly becoming staging-grounds for further AQ activity.  These unfortunate developments do not even address the other numerous groups in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe that wish to curtail American power in a violent and indiscriminate fashion.

Obviously tracking down a few individuals is an extremely arduous task for any country, let alone a country that is fighting two wars on Muslim soil.  Yet, good old-fashioned homeland security measures must continue to be a priority.  This case demonstrates that a strong defensive capability is just as important as taking the fight to the enemy.

At the same time the President is revamping the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, he needs to revamp the preventive abilities of the Department of Homeland Security.

-Daniel R. DePetris


22 Responses

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  1. olumadu said, on December 28, 2009 at 3:47 am

    This suspect is said to be a 23-year-old Nigerian. Who CNN reported, claimed to have ties with Yemen-based terrorist groups. Hmm!

    The moment I heard he is Nigerian, my fraud alarm kicked in. Further, the voluntary claim of: links to terror organizations, highlighted my believe that this dude is twisting his story for the sole reason of admission, into the United States. In one word: This Is An Immigration fraud.

    Authorities should confirm his admissibility – if found wanting – should treat this as another fraud for the sole purpose of immigration.

  2. olumadu said, on December 28, 2009 at 3:48 am

    I was quick to judgment: I called it an immigration fraud. After all the facts, however, I’m inclined to believe – this is real!

    However, it is very un-Nigerian to be involved in this dastardly act – the reason for my rush to judgment. A Nigerian crooks will steal your contact lens – with your eyes open – however, are cowards, who value live more than all – they will never risk their lives. They may contact al-queda, to dupe them, but not, follow through with any terror deal.

    London should be blamed for this particular incident – it is apparent that the conversion (to terrorism) was acquired in the midst of the radicalism that abound in that wannabe country. The promising young Nigerian was assimilated into the devilish cult and their meanness.

    The western media will descend on Nigeria, again, to trash her image, even though the reality that: this is un-nigerian, is glaring in their faces. We will be the victims – as the focus of the lens is placed right on our onus.

    I’ve transited through Amsterdam, too many times, and will vouch that Lagos should not be blamed for the security breach or failure. At Schipol, you are taken by a bus ride to US-bound departure terminals, which are islands away from the regular terminals. There, you are put through what I term, condescending security check-ups, that in America, will violate many civil rights statuses. So, if this dude was able to go through there, unscathed, then put the blame where it belongs – Holland!

    Again, it is an eye-sore, no matter the origin and place. I’m pray that the young man will repent and see live for what it really is: L O V E!!!!!

  3. optomyst said, on December 28, 2009 at 3:48 am

    So our security people are idiots. We already knew that. Lucky for them, this was stopped by ordinary citizens who have had enough. Obviously, we cannot depend on government agencies to protect us.

    • Divinity_ said, on December 28, 2009 at 3:49 am

      Clearly Optomyst your’e the idiot here, our “security” had nothing to do with this attack breaching american borders. The KLM/DELTA ticket counters and International “security” ignored the fact this bimbo was on our lists and allowed him to fly.

      If he would of tried this malarky from one our airports here in America he wouldn’t of got past the ticket check area of the checkpoint if these delta/klm retards would of tried to let him slide.

      These Airlines over book flights, give tickets to people with all kind of psychological problems, criminals ANYONE. TSA secures and protects people flying, and has prevented more planes from being attacked here on U.S Soil { which is their domain} If people were so damn smart , they would rally to implement better protection programs so the “government would protect them properly” since you think it doesnt. As far as I can see, TSA is doing a better job than those private security agencies were when 9-11 happened.

      …now don’t you look SILLY.

  4. rrobeson said, on December 28, 2009 at 3:50 am

    mmm, me thinks we should have a centralized department to handle all integration of homeland security information. Hey, we could call it homeland security too. Wow, what a great idea. Whoops, Bush already thought of it. I think he said the same people that told them there were nukes in Iraq also recommended this on top of spending a trillion a year on the military.

    Americans are fools. Fools and their money are soon parted.

  5. iceman76 said, on December 28, 2009 at 3:51 am


    1. Why was he band from traveling to England and not USA? I need a better reason than he was no longer a student in England.

    2. Did the policy of prohibiting monitoring international phone calls allow this to happen?

    3. Did he have a valid passport from Nigeria?

    4. Did he have liquids in quantities that were above the allowable limit?

    5. Did he have an explosive in a powder form or ointment that was activated by adding water?

    6. Did any screening rule changes occur that increased the burden of proof to list a terror suspect to the no-fly list?

    7. Will he be questioned to find out if he had a colleague aboard the South American flight that went missing over the Atlantic ocean?

    8. Did he ingest any evidence that would have made him lethargic and unable to resist being confined on the plane?

    9. Are there any investigative reporters “out there”? We the public need “objective” reporters, not “cheerleaders”, that can find out if policy changes by the new administration contributed to letting this guy slip thru our security systems. We need to know if we can prevent this simply by adding more security measures?

    10. Who paid for the flight ticket? Did he have a bank account or credit card? Did he have cash on him and in what currency?

    11. Did he have a fatal disease such as HIV, cancer, etc.?

    12. Does he have children and a family or someone kin to him that has been kidnapped?

    13. Was he required to state where and who he planned to visit in the USA other than the atmosphere above Michigan?

    We need facts!

  6. Dan said, on December 28, 2009 at 3:51 am

    Hopefully this failed act of terrorism will convince others outside of the United States to boost their own preventive security measures. What is the good of improving surviellence technology in the United States if international airports do not have similar capabilities. Nigerian airports should be a primary concern, considering the fact that Islamic terrorists on the continent could easily take advantage of Nigeria’s endemic problems. After all, terrorists based in either Yemen or Somalia could easily make the trek to Nigeria in the hopes of entering either the United States or Western Europe.

    Nigeria and the Netherlands- the two nations that failed to subdue Abdul Mudallad despite his presence on a counterterrorist watch list- must understand that their security is also at stake. Slip-ups could quickly morph into civilian casualties and psychological damage.

  7. Blue13326 said, on December 28, 2009 at 3:52 am

    Waitaminute…I thought terrorism and terrorists were a product of poverty and repression due to evil US domination; our elites has assured of this for years now…yet, all these terrorists seem to be rich kids from lives of luxury…

    Oh well, when reality conflicts with leftism, we all know leftists never let that get in their way…

  8. arvay said, on December 28, 2009 at 3:53 am

    even a cursive study of history will reveal that revolutions are often joined and sometimes led by disaffected members of the ruling group. Lenin, child of the minor Russian nobility, is a case in point. Examples abound. His origins did nothing to negate the inhuman conditions ceased by the utterly stupid and inward-looking Romanoff dynasty — following a thousand years of the abuse of the Russian people by their leaders.

    That’s not “leftism,” that’s comprehension based on fact.

    A major development in today’s interconnected world is that disaffected people from practically anywhere can learn about and join the struggles of others.

    So reacting against these developments in the usual cartoon-world way that Obama has apparently learned from Bush will only intensify attacks against the US. We’ll drop more bombs on Yemen, because this guy apparently learned his explosives lessons there, and I’m sure some Captain America types will call for “action” against Nigeria.

    Al Quaeda in Yemen is already recruiting more members as a result of our attack.

    The world’s supply these people is inexhaustible. As we waste more and more lives in our senseless “strategy” of whack-a-mole, we’re funding our own demise. If we don’t stop, we’re going to bankrupt ourselves, and the next economic crisis may start to generate disaffected people who won’t need to sneak into America to strike the system.

  9. Dan said, on December 28, 2009 at 3:54 am

    This is all very interesting from a comparative politics standpoint, but all in all, what does Nigeria tell us about religious fundamentalism in general? The answer is not very much. All of the problems mentioned in this post (government corruption, the marginalization of Muslims, political and economic inequality) are associated with a rise in terrorism and political violence. This is not exactly a new phenomenon. Just take a look at other states grappling with the same conflicting situation:

    1) Yemen- a nation that is quickly transforming into a failed state. The lack of administrative authority and the increase in poverty have given the Al’Qaeda network an ample space to operate on the Arabian Peninsula. Distracted by the Houthi insurgency to the North and the succesionist movement in the south, Yemeni authorities are simply too busy to focus exclusively on AQ activity.

    2) Iraq- Despite improvements, Iraqi Sunnis are still widely unemployed and highly alienated by Maliki’s Shia-dominated government. Not a great thing for stemming violence on the streets which could turn ugly

    3) Afghanistan- Drug cultivation, Karzai corruption, and a resurgent Taliban complicate U.S. efforts to shut down AQ in the country to the best of their ability.

    4) Somalia- Pretty simple…famine + anarchy + desperation = increased recruitment for AQ

    5) Pakistan- Just look at the headlines

    With these cases cited, how is Nigeria any different. Political extremism in Nigeria still results from the same old causes.

  10. Don Bacon said, on December 28, 2009 at 3:54 am

    Why do we waste time on an over-wrought analysis of the Nigerian social condition over a wacko AQ wannabe? His own father warned the US about letting him go to the US yet he was allowed to board a plane for the US. If the US had done its job properly this wouldn’t even be an issue. And looking at the Nigerian condition pales in comparison with the US’s.

    The US: Political extremism? Check. religious fundamentalism? Check again. Mass dissatisfaction among many impoverished? Look at the polls. Extremists? We got ’em. One man trying to blow up a plane? Heck, the US has a couple million in uniform blowing up whole countries.

    So which country is truly “rife with corruption and wanting for institutions”, Nigeria or the US? Poor US, I say. Poor us.

  11. BG said, on December 28, 2009 at 3:55 am

    There’s a story doing the rounds on the internet that the Northwest 253 terrorist is the son of Umaru Abdul Mutallab, a former chairman of the First Bank of Nigeria. If it’s true, it might well mean that there’s somebody at The Economist who knows the boy’s dad. Might be an interesting angle to follow up?

  12. generated3350423 said, on December 28, 2009 at 3:56 am

    The response of the airlines and civil aviation authorities to this and previous attempts to bring down aircraft have been entirely reactive as opposed to predictive.
    How many tens of millions of shoes have needlessly been removed at screening points all because of Richard Reid, the so-called “show bomber”? How many million litres of shampoos, cosmetics and even drinking water have been confiscated due to the potential to use a liquid mixture to create a bomb (again instituted after the fact and not because someone thought it might happen and took steps in advance to ensure that it would not)?

    The unfortunate reality is that there must be dozens of ways in which someone bent on mayhem, and possessed of a bit of paramilitary training and a basic knowledge of chemistry could damage an airliner in ways as yet completely ignored by current security protocols.

    The new rules proposed for flights into the US are a panacea to the traveling public, and an attempt by the authorities to demonstrate that they are on top of the problem. They aren’t. Nor perhaps can they ever be.

    And while we continue to remove our shoes and have our water bottles seized and now our hand luggage searched and re-searched, there remains a thriving industry in every air terminal in the world selling litre sized bottles of 40% alcohol duty free spirits which we are quite free to carry aboard any plane. Nothing flammable about those thank goodness!

  13. CL Lo said, on December 28, 2009 at 3:57 am

    The current USA administration has no idea how to handle or prevent terrorism. In fact, in their words, these are “man caused disasters.”

    First the Fort Hood shooting, and now this. I suspect more and worst will come.

    After seven years of relative calm, we forgot what we need to do. We forgot 9/11, we forgot… We even forgot the central role of our federal government. Now we think it should be our doctor and our nanny.

    In the JFK era, another weak president, at least the country was largely on the right page. Defense was 2/3 of federal budget then – which reflected the role of the federal government. Today, defense is not even 10%.

    You can’t hire a nanny and expect her to be a body guard. For the next few years, we will be paying for our collective lapse of judgment last November.

  14. h4nym said, on December 28, 2009 at 3:57 am

    The problem is straightforward, albeit that the solution is probably less so. PALESTINE. It’s the fact that the only functioning democracy in the Middle East conducts its own holocaust against a defenceless people led by the most corrupt idiots in a crowded league of despotic Arab, Islamic and African corrupt idiots. And all the while this problem isn’t sorted, we in the West will continue to represent a Satan of varying majesty and will be targeted as a result. However awful, however misguided, however idiotic, however criminal.

    Sort out Palestine, get Israel under control, respect the traditions of the Middle East and don’t try to impose a multi-party democracy on countries that are not nations, but simply the bits left over after the colonial map-drawers and armies got bored and left.

    It’s our choice in the West – we either deal with the root cause or we continue to slash away at our liberties in apparent defence of those self-same liberties. I vote the former.

  15. justanonymous said, on December 28, 2009 at 3:58 am

    Just because they don’t succeed doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there intent on doing harm to us.

    How did they get the device on board?

    I’ve flown out of Schipol to the States so many times I’ve lost count so this is definitely troubling to me.

    Detroit, Toronto and Amsterdam are becoming central to being hives of scum and villany for terrorists.

  16. uru86 said, on December 28, 2009 at 3:59 am

    I am a frequent flier, and I’ve always found it odd that passengers on connecting flights generally do not have to go through another security screening. Obviously, security is as strong as your weakest point and obviously security at Lagos is not close to the level of security demanded at US or European airports. Ergo, wouldn’t it make sense to re-screen all connecting passengers, or if that is improbable, passengers from countries of high risk?

    Read more of my thoughts at:


  17. happyfish18 said, on December 28, 2009 at 3:59 am

    Unfortunately this will not be their last attempt.

    As for me apart from the inconveniences in the airports, I have lost many tubes of hair gel because I forgetfully carried them in my hand luggage.

  18. Artemio Cruz said, on December 28, 2009 at 4:01 am

    The goal of terrorism is to inspire fear. The more repressively we respond to it the easier it becomes to scare us.

    Despite evidence to the contrary (MI6 was forced to admit that sectarian issues in Northern Ireland are currently the biggest threat in the UK at least) our governments continue to talk up an islamicist threat. If they do this long enough and put enough people in prison then they’ll probably succeed in creating the very threat they are so worried about.

    Regarding the attempts themselves – why are we all so worried about planes blowing up? Any serious terrorist might, in future, prefer to attack queues at airport security checks for maximum effect with minimal investment: more fear and more repression.

  19. Ravi said, on December 28, 2009 at 4:01 am

    I do not know what the UK is supposed to do.

    The total blame for this incident lies at the door of the US authorities.

    According to the latest reports, the father of this guy approached the US embassy in Abuja in November to voice concerns about his son.

    Why was he issued a visa to travel the US?

    Why is someone of his background prepared to kill himself and others?

  20. Paper Airplane Designs said, on January 8, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Bookmarked this. Thank you for sharing. Definitely worth my time.

    • Dan said, on January 8, 2010 at 10:24 pm

      Thanks so much!! Spread the word

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