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Trial of 'underwear' bomber begins in US
Prosecution says Nigerian man admits he attempted to blow up US airliner with hidden explosives.
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2011 00:12
 The device, which was sewn into Abdulmutallab's underwear, malfunctioned and burned him [AFP]

The trial has begun of a Nigerian man accused of trying to bring down a US airliner when he was arrested on Christmas Day 2009 with a bomb in his underwear.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 24, showed little emotion on the first day of his trial on Tuesday, silently staring forward with his chin on his hands during most of the prosecution's opening statement, which linked him to al Qaeda armed group.

In his opening statement, Jonathan Tukel, the US attorney, said that after the unsuccessful attack that Abdulmutallab admitted to "each and every person he came into contact with" he was trying "to bring down" Northwest Flight 253 as it approached Detroit from Amsterdam using a bomb supplied by al Qaeda members in Yemen.

The first witness in the trial, a passenger who helped subdue Abdulmutallab on the plane, testified the defendant's underwear looked like adult diapers and were bulky and burning.

The device, which was sewn into Abdulmutallab's underwear, malfunctioned and burned him. He was then overpowered by other passengers and has been in US custody ever since.

Tukels aid all of the 290 people - 279 passengers, eight flight attendants and three cockpit crew members - on board Flight 253 "had plans to be somewhere, with one exception".

Abdulmutallab said "his sole reason for being on Flight 253 was to blow it up ... His only reason for being there was to kill all the other passengers and himself".

Tukel showed the jury a picture of the remains of the underwear he said contained the explosive device Abdulmutallab tried to detonate. He warned jurors the evidence they would see later included an explicit photograph of the defendant's badly burned genitalia.

Abdulmutallab had tried unsuccessfully to have that photograph excluded from the trial.

'Martyrdom mission'

Anthony Chambers, the attorney who helped Abdulmutallab with pretrial motions and jury selection, said he was reserving the right to make an opening statement at a later time.

The government claimed in pre-trial legal documents that Abdulmutallab admitted to US law enforcement officials that he was on a "martyrdom mission" for al Qaeda and received the bomb and training from an armed group in Yemen.

Tukel said Abdulmutallab made similar admissions to half a dozen others during the emergency landing in Detroit and during treatment for burns. He said several people would testify.

The only witness called on Tuesday was Michael Zantow, who sat one row behind Abdulmutallab during the flight and watched him put a blanket over his head after he came back from the bathroom as the flight approached Detroit.

"[It] wasn't four, five minutes later we heard a loud pop," Zantow said.

"[It] sounded like a large firecracker."

Zantow, who helped lay Abdulmutallab on the floor of the jet, described passengers' efforts to put out the flames.

The 12-person jury, sworn in last Thursday by Judge Nancy Edmunds of US District Court, is comprised of three men and nine women and includes a homemaker, a housekeeper, a nurse's aide and the wife of a Baptist pastor.

Source:
Agencies
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