Nigeria to conduct investigation into terrorist suspect

Nigeria to conduct investigation into terrorist suspectWashington/Abuja, Dec 27 - Nigeria's Vice President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan Saturday ordered a full investigation of the circumstances surrounding an alleged terrorist attack on a US airplane by a Nigerian citizen, according to the Nigerian newspaper, ThisDay.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, the son of a wealthy Nigerian banker, was charged Saturday in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with attempting to destroy a Northwest Airlines passenger plane carrying 278 passengers as it prepared to land in Detroit.

Passengers on board the Christmas Day flight subdued Abdulmutallab and put out the fire he had started - apparently by mixing explosives with the highly volatile explosive PETN, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said.

"While steps are being taken to verify the identity of the alleged suspect and his motives, our security agencies will cooperate fully with the American authorities in the on-going investigations," said Minister of Information Dora Akunyili in a statement quoted by the newspaper.

Akunyili also announced the vice president's order for the probe.

Abdulmutallab was being treated at the University of Michigan Medical Centre for burns he received when he tried to set off the explosives. The Nigerian embassy in Washington had sent representatives to provide consular services to the suspect, CNN reported.

He had smuggled the material on board sometime on the way from Lagos, Nigeria to Detroit via Schiphol airport in Amsterdam.

Akunyili said the government had received the news "with dismay."

"We state very clearly that as a nation, we abhor all forms of terrorism," the information minister said.

Abdulmutallab's father is Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, a former chairman of Nigeria's First Bank and a former government minister.

Family members told the newspaper that Mutallab had grown uneasy about his son's extreme religious views and six months ago had reported his activities to the US embassy in Abuja and to Nigerian security agencies.

The father was reportedly surprised that his son was allowed to fly to the US after his reports to the US authorities.

The terrorist suspect reportedly had a multiple re-entry visa to the US, issued in London where he had been studying engineering at the University College London, according to US and British media reports. He was also, however, on a US government list of about 400,000 people suspected of having terrorist connections, US media reported.

ThisDay reported that Abdulmutallab had since gone to live in Egypt and Dubai, and had severed his ties with the family.

It is not clear if Abdulmutallab had connections to the al-Qaeda terrorist network. Officials told The New York Times that the suspect had insisted he obtained PETN and a syringe that were sewn into his underwear from a bomb expert in Yemen associated with Al Qaeda.

The Washington-based Intel Center, which monitors terrorism activity, suggested the attack on Northwest Airlines could have been in retaliation for an airstrike earlier this month on a terrorist training camp in Abyan Province, Yemen.

The centre quoted from a video recording made by an Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) member vowing: "We are carrying a bomb to hit the enemies of God. ... We only have an issue with America and its agents." (dpa)