The Strange, Scary Saga of “The Underwear Bomber”

Nine years ago today, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallan attempted to murder 289 people on board a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day.

Abdulmutallan was born in Nigeria, the youngest of sixteen children in one of the wealthiest families in all of Africa.  A bright young man, he was once called a “teacher’s dream.”  He grew up in privilege, had access to world travel, and went to all the finest schools.  As he grew older, friends and family became more concerned at how pious he was becoming about his Muslim faith.  They wondered to each other if he was becoming radicalized, but he disappeared before anyone took action.

In August of 2009, Abdulmutallan travelled to Yemen, where he asked where he could find find Anwar al Awlaki, an American-born radical Muslim cleric who preached in support of Al Qaeda on the internet.  He eventually found him, and for five months the two of them plotted on how Abdulmutallan could blow up an American plane. Al Awaki introduced Abdulmutallan to Al Qaeda’s top bomb expert, and gave him the instructions: “Make sure and wait until the plane is over American airspace, then blow it up.”

Abdulmutallan boarded the plane with a sophisticated bomb packed in his underwear placed between his scrotum and his anus.  He went into the airplane bathroom with the intention of exploding the bomb and causing the plane to crash. Abdulmutallan was not a stupid man, as he had a degree in engineering, but the thing he failed to account for is that when men get very nervous, they tend to sweat in this area. The fuse somewhat lit, but did not cause an explosion like he was hoping for.

He came out of the bathroom with a blanket wrapped around himself. Other passengers noticed the smoke and heard popping noises. One of the passengers, a Dutch film maker named Jasper Schuringa jumped on top of him and started beating him vigorously while flight attendants sprayed the fire extinguisher on him.

He was hospitalized with second degree burns to his groin, thigh, and genitals.


No one else was injured.

When he got out the hospital, he was convicted of 287 counts of attempted murder. He is now serving four consecutive life terms of prison, plus fifty more years just in case.

The New York Post probably described it best.


Al-Awlaki released a statement early in 2010 in which he said:

“To the American people … nine years after 9/11, nine years of spending, and nine years of beefing up security you are still unsafe even in the holiest and most sacred of days to you, Christmas Day….
Our brother Umar Farouk has succeeded in breaking through the security systems that have cost the U.S. government alone over 40 billion dollars since 9/11″

Later in 2010, President Obama’s ordered a controversial drone strike in Yemen which killed al-Awlaki.  This was the first time since the civil war that an American citizen was executed without a trial.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallan is now serving in the supermax prison known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies” where he spends 23 out of 24 hours a day in a 7′ by 12′ cell.  He serves in what is known as “Bomber’s Row” alongside other notorious prisoners such as Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber; Zacarias Moussaoui, who helped plan the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001; shoe bomber Richard Reid; and Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center.

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