Ed Driscoll

Christmas Greetings From al-Qaeda?

Richard Fernandez of the Belmont Club has a lengthy round-up on what we know so far about the incident today onboard a  Northwest Airlines flight between Amsterdam and Detroit:

An incident previously described as a passenger setting off firecrackers on a Northwest Airlines flight between Amsterdam and Detroit is now being referred to as a possible terrorist attack.  Fox News reports that a passenger tried to ignite a powder aboard the aircraft and was said to have been acting under instructions from al-Qaeda.

A male passenger reportedly linked to terrorist organization al-Qaeda ignited a powdery substance prior to landing on a Delta Airlines flight to Detroit Friday. The suspect is believed to be Nigerian, Fox News reported. …

The suspect, who suffered second-degree burns, told federal investigators he was directed by al-Qaeda, though authorities are questioning the veracity of that statement, ABC reported. A federal situational awareness bulletin noted that the explosive was acquired in Yemen with instructions as to when it should be used, ABC said.

The FBI was on the scene, Detroit office spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold told NewsCore. Berchtold declined to comment on the reports of a terrorist connection.

Earlier the BBC had described the event as involving “firecrackers”.

A passenger on board a transatlantic Northwest Airlines flight set off firecrackers as it was arriving in the US city of Detroit, the airline says. The blast caused panic on board the Airbus 330, which had flown from Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Several people were slightly injured.

ABC News now says the suspect was on a “no fly list” and that the powder he was trying to ignite was concealed taped to his leg. A syringe of chemicals was said to have been added to the mixture.

The man was apparently already on the government’s no-fly list of suspected terrorists, according to a senior intelligence official.

“The subject is claiming to have extremist affiliation and that the device was acquired in Yemen along with instructions as to when it should be used,” a federal situational awareness bulletin stated.

The suspect told authorities that he had explosive powder taped to his leg and used a syringe of chemicals to mix with the powder that was to cause explosion. This is of concert because it is a method of mixing that is consistent with terror techniques.

MSNBC, citing an airline source, says that a passenger jumped the man as he was trying to light the powder after two other passengers noticed him in the act. “Two people noticed the attempt and a third person jumped on the man and subdued him, an airline official told NBC News.”

Update: This headline from the Detroit Free Press puts it succinctly: “Reports: NWA passenger was trying to blow up flight into Detroit”:

A senior U.S. counterterror official says a passenger aboard a Delta Air Lines flight in Detroit was planning to blow up the plane but the explosive device failed, the Associated Press reported today.

The official said the passenger was being questioned this evening. It was not immediately clear why the passenger wanted to attack the flight that was arriving from Amsterdam.

The passenger on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit Metro Airport created a disturbance by lighting what was reported to be firecrackers — or perhaps a “powdery substance” — onboard the flight, injuring himself and several other passengers, according to Delta Airlines

The passenger was subdued and officials are investigating at Metro Airport.

FBI spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold confirmed today that agents are at Detroit Metro Airport, where the flight from Amsterdam landed.

ABC News reported on its web site that the man is Nigerian and claimed he was directed by Al Qaeda to explode a small device in flight over U.S. soil.

The man was apparently already on the government’s no-fly list of suspected terrorists, ABC News said a senior intelligence official told them.

The Northwest plane, an Airbus 330, landed around noon Detroit time, CNN reported, and was carrying 278 passengers.

Delta spokeswoman Susan Elliott said most of the passengers were still being held at the airport as of 4:30 p.m.

Syed Jafry of Holland, Mich., said people ran out of their seats to tackle the man.

Jafry was sitting in the 16th row when he heard “a pop and saw some smoke and fire.”

Jafry said there was a little bit of commotion for about 10 to 15 minutes.

He said the way passengers responded made him proud to be an American.

Indeed.

Update: On Twitter, Andrew Malcolm of the L.A. Times notes:

Feds raise terrorism threat level one notch (to orange) after firecracker incident on plane in Detroit.

As Malcolm adds, “Developing.”

Update:Shoe Bomber II?”, asks Power Line.