Saturday, December 26, 2009

An ordinary hero

Yesterday's attempted terrorist attack on a plane about to land in Detroit was again foiled by an ordinary person who jumped on the terrorist:
There were popping sounds, smoke and a commotion as passengers cried out in alarm and tried to see what was happening. One woman shouted, “What are you doing?” and another called out, “Fire!”
And then history repeated itself. Just as occurred before Christmas in 2001, when Richard C. Reid tried to ignite plastic explosives hidden in his shoe on a trans-Atlantic flight, fellow passengers jumped on Mr. Abdulmutallab, restraining the 23-year-old Nigerian. Jasper Schuringa, a Dutch film director seated in the same row as Mr. Abdulmutallab but on the other side of the aircraft, saw what looked like an object on fire in the suspect’s lap and “freaked,” he told CNN.
“Without any hesitation, I just jumped over all the seats,” Mr. Schuringa said, in an account that other passengers confirmed. “I was thinking, Oh, he’s trying to blow up the plane. I was trying to search his body for any explosive. I took some kind of object that was already melting and smoking, and I tried to put out the fire and when I did that I was also restraining the suspect.”
Mr. Schuringa said he had burned his hands slightly as he grappled with Mr. Abdulmutallab, aided by other passengers, and began to shout for water. “But then the fire was getting worse, so I grabbed the suspect out of the seat,” Mr. Schuringa said. Flight attendants ran up with fire extinguishers, doused the flames and helped Mr. Schuringa walk Mr. Abdulmutallab to first class, where he was stripped, searched and locked in handcuffs.
“The whole plane was screaming — but the suspect, he didn’t say a word,” Mr. Schuringa said. He shrugged off praise for his swift action, which he said was reflexive. “When you hear a pop on the plane, you’re awake, trust me,” he said. “I just jumped. I didn’t think. I went over there and tried to save the plane.”
The accused terrorist did not act because he was from a deprived family. On the contrary, he is from an elite family in Nigeria.
Mr. Abdulmutallab grew up in a rarefied slice of Nigeria, the son of an affluent banker. He attended one of West Africa’s best schools, the British School of Lomé in Togo. After high school, he went to Britain and enrolled at the University College London to study engineering.

University College London, in a statement, said that a student named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had enrolled in mechanical engineering courses between September 2005 and June 2008. But it cautioned that it could not confirm that this was the same individual apprehended in Detroit. In London, Scotland Yard was conducting searches of apartments around the college.

His father, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, until recently had served as chairman of the First Bank of Nigeria, and his mother’s family is originally from Yemen, according to news accounts in Nigerian newspapers. Investigators are now examining how Mr. Abdulmutallab, at age 23, apparently rebelled against this privileged upbringing to pursue an extremist goal. It was while still in high school that Mr. Abdulmutallab began preaching to fellow students about Islam, according to a report in ThisDay, a Nigerian newspaper.

ThisDay reported that more recently, Mr. Abdulmutallab had moved to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and told his family that he no longer wanted to associate with them.
One wonders who his contacts were at University College. As Harry's Place has often reported, a number of extremist Islamist organizations are active on British university campuses. Perhaps his radicalization began in Nigeria, but it may very well have continued during his schooling in London as well.

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