Airline attack suspect starts trial with outburst
Oct 4, 10:14 AM (ET)
By ED WHITE
DETROIT (AP) - A Nigerian man accused of trying to bring down an international jetliner with a bomb in his underwear walked into the start of his federal trial Tuesday and declared that a radical Islamic cleric killed by the U.S. military is alive.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 24, spoke out as jury selection got under way for his federal terror trial in Detroit, where he is acting as his own attorney and has had previous courtroom outbursts.
"Anwar is alive," Abdulmutallab said, referring to American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed last week by a joint CIA-U.S. military air strike in Yemen.
"The mujahadeen will wipe out the U.S. - the cancer U.S.," he added.
Abdulmutallab came into the courtroom Tuesday wearing an oversized prison T-shirt and U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds called a brief recess to allow him to change into clothes more appropriate for court, after acknowledging and denying his apparent request to wear a "Yemeni belt with a dagger."
He has pleaded not guilty to eight charges, including conspiracy to commit terrorism and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. The government says he wanted to blow up the plane by detonating chemicals in his underwear, just seven minutes before the jet carrying 279 passengers and a crew of 11 was to land at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
But the bomb didn't work, and passengers assisted by crew members saw flames and pounced on Abdulmutallab.
The failed suicide strike attack, the first act of terrorism in the U.S. during the Obama administration, revealed the rise of a dangerous al-Qaida affiliate and al-Awlaki's growing influence.
The government says Abdulmutallab willingly explained the plot twice, first to U.S. border officers who took him off the plane and then in more detail to FBI agents who interviewed him at a hospital for 50 minutes, following treatment for serious burns to his groin.
The first two prospective jurors called Tuesday - a man and a woman - said they could not be impartial and were dismissed. The man was a former law enforcement officer and the woman, an automotive sales administrator, said she believed Abdulmutallab was very guilty.
Abdulmutallab told authorities he trained in Yemen, home base for Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. He said he was influenced by al-Awlaki, who was killed Friday by an air strike that President Barack Obama called a "major blow" to al-Qaida's most dangerous franchise.
Following the strike, a U.S. official outlined new details of al-Awlaki's involvement against the U.S., including Abdulmutallab's alleged mission. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said al-Awlaki specifically directed Abdulmutallab to detonate an explosive device over U.S. airspace to maximize casualties.
Osama bin Laden appeared in a video declaring Abdulmutallab a "hero." Abdulmutallab also has been lauded by al-Qaida's English-language Web magazine Inspire, whose editor was killed along with al-Awlaki.
Associated Press writers Jeff Karoub in Detroit and Matt Apuzzo in Washington contributed to this report.
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