Suspect scion of wealthy Nigerian family

December 27, 2009 12:00 am

, KANO, Dec 27 – The man charged with trying to blow up a US plane on Christmas Day is a London-educated Nigerian whose wealthy businessman father had reportedly voiced concern about his son\’s radicalism.

The man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, was subdued by fellow passengers and crew aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam Friday when he allegedly tried to detonate an explosive device as the plane descended toward Detroit.

While there has yet to be confirmation of his links to extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda, the Nigerian newspaper This Day reported Saturday that Abdulmutallab\’s father, Umaru Mutallab, had grown so distraught over his son\’s religious extremism that he contacted US authorities about it in mid-2009.

Citing family sources, This Day said Mutallab reported his son\’s activities to the US Embassy in Abuja as well as to Nigerian security officials.

US officials in Nigeria said they had no information on the report.

Umaru Mutallab, a Muslim, told AFP Saturday he had left his hometown of Funtua in northern Katsina State for Abuja Saturday to meet with security agencies to discuss the activities of his son, the last of his 16 children.

"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," Mutallab told AFP.

"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."

This Day described the father as surprised that his son was issued a US visa after he had reported his concerns to US authorities.

Dutch authorities confirmed that the detained suspect had flown from Nigeria to Amsterdam and then on to Detroit with a valid US visa, and that US authorities reviewed the passenger list, in line with standard procedures, and approved the flight for departure.

Nigerian officials said Saturday that he had boarded a KLM flight from Lagos after undergoing normal security checks at the airport.

Concern swirled over how a man believed to be listed in a US intelligence database had managed to board a plane with an incendiary device.

US Representative Peter King told the New York Daily News that Abdulmutallab was not on any no-fly list when he boarded the flight from Nigeria.

The suspect\’s father, a 70-year-old businessman, was the former chief of the United Bank for Africa and First Bank of Nigeria, two of the nation\’s biggest banks.

Umaru Mutallab served as chairman of First Bank until his retirement last week after 13 years on the board.

He is also the founder of the first Islamic bank in Nigeria, Jaiz International Bank, established in 2003.

The Nigerian reports paint a picture of a young suspect radicalised by religious extremism and preaching his views to fellow students.

This Day reported that Abdulmutallab attended secondary school at the British International School in Lome, Togo, where the newspaper said he was known for preaching to classmates about Islam. It said he was nicknamed "Alfa", a local term for Muslim scholar.

Michael Rimmer, who taught history to Abdulmutallab at the school, told the BBC that his former pupil had supported the Taliban regime that ran Afghanistan up to 2001.

Before the US invasion of the country in that year, Rimmer said: "I remember… he thought the Taliban were OK, whereas all the other Muslim kids at school thought they were a bunch of nutters."

Despite this, Rimmer described Abdulmutallab as "every teacher\’s dream — he was very keen, enthusiastic, very bright, very polite".

Abdulmutallab later lived in London, where reports say he studied mechanical engineering at University College London.

The college said a man called Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab studied mechanical engineering at the institution from 2005 to 2008, but it said it was unable to confirm that the man listed in their records was the same as the one arrested by US authorities.

This Day added that after London, Abdulmutallab relocated to Egypt and then Dubai, declaring to his relatives that he was severing all ties with his family.


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