[JURIST] US authorities on Saturday filed charges [press release] against a Nigerian national for allegedly attempting to set off an explosive device on an airplane bound from Amsterdam to Detroit on Friday. According to an affidavit [text, PDF] filed by Special Agent Theodore Peissig of the Federal Bureau of Investigation [official website], 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab detonated a device thought to contain the high explosive pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) while Northwest Airlines Flight 253 was making its approach to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport [official website]. Announcing the charges, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] said:
This alleged attack on a U.S. airplane on Christmas Day shows that we must remain vigilant in the fight against terrorism at all times. Had this alleged plot to destroy an airplane been successful, scores of innocent people would have been killed or injured. We will continue to investigate this matter vigorously, and we will use all measures available to our government to ensure that anyone responsible for this attempted attack is brought to justice.
Abdulmutallab is charged with willfully attempting to destroy an aircraft or aircraft facilities in violation of 18 USC § 32 [text]. He was treated at the University of Michigan Medical Center [official website] for burns allegedly suffered when a device concealed on his body exploded, causing his clothing and the walls of the airplane to catch fire before being smothered by crew members and other passengers.
Earlier this year, twelve men were charged and three sentenced to life in prison [JURIST reports] in connection with a plot to blow up transatlantic planes leaving a London airport using liquid explosives. Richard Reid and Saajid Badat [GlobalSecurity profiles] were convicted [JURIST report] in 2005 and 2003 respectively after Reid attempted to blow up an American Airlines flight in 2001 using an explosive device concealed in his shoe.
[JURIST] The US Senate [official website] on Thursday approved a measure raising the federal borrowing limit by $290 billion. The bill was passed pursuant to recommendations by officials at the US Treasury Department [official website] that additional funding was necessary to continue government operations. HR 4314 [LOC materials], which passed 60-39 [roll call], amends 31 USC § 3101 [text] to authorize the federal government to hold a total of $12.4 trillion in public debt, an increase from the previous $12.1 trillion. The amount represents the sum necessary to fund continuing government operations until February. The bill, introduced on December 15, received House approval the following day before being presented to the Senate. US President Barack Obama [official profile] must sign the legislation before it takes effect.
The bill does not disburse funds for government operations, but formalizes [WSJ report] debt obligations already incurred by the federal government. Debate [NYT report] over increasing the debt ceiling has reflected a continuing partisan divide over federal fiscal policy, echoing deliberation over a health care reform bill [JURIST report], which also passed Thursday in the Senate. The increase will be the fourth in 18 months [Business Week report] and will augment $5.4 trillion [NYT report] in debt ceiling increases passed under former President George W. Bush [official profile].
Last week, a Pakistani court issued an arrest warrant [JURIST report] for Interior Minister Rehman Malik [official profile] on corruption charges. The charges came two days after a special 17-member panel of the Supreme Court ruled unanimously [JURIST report] that the NRO is unconstitutional, paving the way for corruption charges to be brought against Zardari and other members of his government. The NRO was signed [JURIST report] by former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] in 2007 as part of a power-sharing accord allowing former prime minister Benazir Bhutto [BBC profile] to return to the country despite corruption charges she had faced. The ordinance also applies to similar charges against politicians who were charged, but not convicted, of corruption between 1988 and 1999.
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