Nigerian jet bomb suspect was teenage firebrand

2009-12-28 11:46


THE NIGERIAN man accused of trying to blow up a US passenger jet

was a brilliant student but even at school he was likened to an imam because of

an Islamic fervour that ended up driving him away from his wealthy family.

The 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is the youngest of 16

children of a powerful Nigerian banker.

It is reported that the father worried

about his son’s extreme views. The accused man studied mechanical engineering at

University College London.

Before college Abdulmutallab went to the British International

School in the Togo capital, Lome, where he was known for preaching to classmates

and was nicknamed “Alfa“, a local term for Muslim scholar, Nigerian newspaper

This Day reported.

Michael Rimmer, who taught history at the school, told the BBC that

his former pupil had supported the Taliban regime that ran Afghanistan until

they were deposed by a US-led coalition in 2001 after the September 11


“I remember... he thought the Taliban were OK whereas all the other

Muslim kids at school thought they were a bunch of nutters,” Rimmer said.

Despite this, Rimmer described Abdulmutallab as “every teacher’s

dream – he was very keen, enthusiastic, very bright, very polite”.

Smart, maybe, but Abdulmutallab’s family worried about the young

man now accused of trying to blow up a Christmas Day Amsterdam-to-Detroit


From Lome, Abdulmutallab went to London and British police have

searched a string of properties, including a plush mansion block in the upscale

Marylebone district, where he is thought to have lived in a flat.

He is believed to have gone to University College London, which has

said that an Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab studied mechanical engineering there from

2005 to 2008, though it could not confirm he was the jet bomb suspect.

This Day said after London Abdulmutallab moved to Egypt and then

Dubai, telling his family he was severing all ties with them.

Security officials

told US media that Abdulmutallab had told them he trained with an Al-Qaeda bomb

maker in Yemen.

Abdulmutallab was barred from returning to Britain in May.

A Sunday Times report, confirmed to AFP by a government official,

said the UK Border Agency rejected Abdulmutallab’s request for a visa for a

six-month course because the college he wanted to attend was considered


The suspect’s father, Umaru Mutallab, was so worried about his

son’s religious extremism that he contacted the US embassy in Abuja in November,

a US official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Abdulmutallab was consequently added to a broad terrorism watchlist

of 550?000 names but was not put on a much smaller no-fly list of just


“He was such a brilliant boy and nobody in the family had the

slightest thought he could do something as insane as this,” a relative said from

Nigeria’s northern city of Kaduna.

“Farouk was a devoted Muslim who took his religion seriously and

was committed to his studies,” he said on condition of anonymity.

Most of the family only met with him on his return to Nigeria on

holidays from his studies abroad but found him easygoing and passionate about

Islam, a cousin said.

“He was of course a very religious, polite and studious fellow but

it was unthinkable that he would do anything close to attempting to bomb a

plane. I still can’t believe this is for real,” the cousin said, also asking


Abdulmutallab’s father is the former chief of the United Bank for

Africa and First Bank of Nigeria, two of the nation’s biggest banks.

He retired

last week as chairperson of First Bank and had also founded the first Islamic

bank in Nigeria, Jaiz International Bank, in 2003.

Mutallab left his home city of Funtua in northern Katsina State for

Abuja on Saturday to meet with security officials to discuss his son’s


“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,”

the 70-year-old 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.”


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