A pop, and ‘all hell broke loose’
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab brushed his teeth, dabbed on aftershave and prayed. He thought he was bound for heaven where Muslim virgins would greet the would-be jihadist martyr.
Instead, when he squeezed the syringe that was supposed to trigger a chemical explosion, there was a little “pop” and smoke swirled from his crotch.
“Hey dude, your pants are on fire,” a passenger yelled. “All hell broke loose,” jurors were told on the opening day of the long-awaited trial of the so-called underwear bomber on Tuesday in Detroit.
Aboard the big airliner, Mr. Abdulmutallab remained mute, seemingly oblivious to his burning flesh, as he was grabbed by passengers, pulled from his seat and forced to the floor on his back; his burning crotch and clothes extinguished. He was then forcibly restrained until the aircraft landed safely.
The bizarre, potentially deadly but thwarted plot was intended to blow up a Northwest Airlines Airbus 330 bound from Amsterdam to Detroit with nearly 300 people on board on Christmas Day in 2009. Instead of heaven, the badly burned Nigerian son of a wealthy banker wound up in a Detroit hospital where, prosecutors say, he freely told medical staff about his thwarted plans for martyrdom.
Prosecutors also told jurors that Mr. Abdulmutallab bragged of his al-Qaeda connections, although that admission may be challenged as it apparently came before he was advised of his legal rights to remain silent.
Only one witness testified Tuesday in what is expected to be a month-long trial.