[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.