Sunday, December 27, 2009

KANO, Nigeria (Agence France-Presse) | The man suspected of trying to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas is a London-educated Nigerian whose father, a wealthy businessman, voiced concern months ago about his son’s radicalism, reports say.

The man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, was subdued by fellow passengers and crew aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam on Friday when he allegedly tried to detonate a device as the plane descended toward Detroit.

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While there has yet to be confirmation of the suspect’s links to extremist groups such as al Qaeda, the Nigerian newspaper This Day reported Saturday that Mr. Abdulmutallab’s father, Umaru Mutallab, had grown so distraught over his son’s religious extremism that he contacted U.S. authorities about it in mid-2009.

Citing family sources, This Day said Mr. Mutallab reported his son’s activities to the U.S. Embassy in Abuja as well as to Nigerian security officials.

U.S. officials in Nigeria said they had no information on the report.

Mr. Mutallab, a Muslim, told Agence France-Presse he had left his hometown, Funtua, in northern Katsina State, for the capital Abuja on Saturday to meet with security agencies to discuss the allegation against his son, the last of his 16 children.

“I have been receiving telephone calls from all over the world about my child who has been arrested for an alleged attempt to bomb a plane,” Mr. Mutallab said.

“I am really disturbed. I would not want to say anything at the moment until I put myself together,” he said. “I have been summoned by the Nigerian security and I am on my way to Abuja to answer the call.”

Mr. Mutallab, 70, was the former chief of the United Bank for Africa and First Bank of Nigeria, two of the nation’s biggest banks. He served as chairman of First Bank until his retirement last week after 13 years on the board. He is also the founder of Jaiz International Bank, the first Islamic bank in Nigeria, established in 2003.

The Nigerian reports paint a picture of a young suspect radicalized by religious extremism and preaching his views to fellow students.

This Day reported that the suspect attended secondary school at the British International School in Lome, Togo, where the newspaper said he was known for preaching to classmates about Islam. It said he was nicknamed “Alfa,” a local term for Muslim scholar.

Mr. Abdulmutallab later lived in London, where reports say he studied mechanical engineering at University College London.

The college said a man called Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab studied mechanical engineering at the institution from 2005 to 2008, but it said it was unable to confirm that the man listed in its records was the same as the one arrested by U.S. authorities. While in London, Mr. Abdulmutallab reportedly lived in an upscale apartment building where units sold for between $2 million and $4 million.

This Day added that after London, Mr. Abdulmutallab relocated to Egypt and then Dubai, United Arab Emirates, declaring to his relatives that he was severing all ties with his family.

This Day described Mr. Mutallab as surprised that his son was issued a U.S. visa after he had reported his concerns to U.S. authorities. According to some reports, Mr. Abdulmutallab received his multiple-entry U.S. visa in June 2008, and it was set to expire in June 2010.

Dutch authorities confirmed that the detained suspect had flown from Nigeria to Amsterdam and then on to Detroit with a valid U.S. visa, and that U.S. authorities reviewed the passenger list, in line with standard procedures, and approved the flight for departure.

Nigerian officials said Saturday that he had boarded a KLM flight from Lagos after undergoing normal security checks at the airport.

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