Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man accused of trying to blow up Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009 with a bomb in his underpants, changed his plea to guilty on all counts before saying he did it "to avenge the killing of my Muslim brothers and sisters."
After consulting with his lawyer, the "underwear bomber" was once again read the charges against him in a Detroit court today and after each one, he told the judge, he pleaded guilty.
"The Koran obliges every able Muslim to participate in jihad and fight in the way of Allah," Abdulmutallab told the court after changing his plea. "I carried the device to avenge the killing of my Muslim brothers and sisters... Unfortunately, my actions make me guilty of a crime."
Abdulmutallab called the failed explosives he had hidden in his underwear a "blessed weapon" and said he attempted to use it "because of the tyranny of the United States."
Lead prosecutor Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tuckel said he was "very surprised" by Abdulmutallab's decision to plead guilty, as was FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit field office Andy Arena.
"I didn't see this one coming," Arena said.
An attorney working with Abdulmutallab, Anthony Chambers, told reporters it was Abdulmutallab's decision to switch his plea even though Chambers disagreed.
"No lawyer worth his weight in salt would agree," Chambers said. "I thought the evidence was lacking... I don't think there was any damage to that plane."
Abdulmutallab had originally pleaded not guilty to all charges, including attempted murder and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, but apparently changed his mind since the prosecution completed their opening arguments Tuesday.
Prosecutors said Abdulmutallab attempted to ignite explosives hidden in his underpants on Christmas Day in 2009, but the device failed to explode and Abdulmutallab was subdued by other passengers aboard the plane.
After the incident, Abdulmutallab allegedly told Customs and Border Protection officer Marvin Steigerwald that he obtained the device in Yemen and that he hid it in his underwear. When he was questioned later by two FBI agents, Abdulmutallab said he went to Yemen to become involved in jihad and that he was influenced by a man named Abu Tarak to undertake a suicide operation, investigators said.
Intelligence officials said that while in Yemen, Abdulmutallab also met with high-profile al Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a CIA drone strike last month.
In his statement today, Abdulmutallab said that he was "greatly inspired" by Awlaki and said Awlaki is still alive.
Abdulmutallab said "Allahu Akbar," or "God is Great", as he was led out of the court.
The court case was expected to shed light publicly on Abdulmutallab's relationship with Awlaki and possibly details on Awlaki's role within al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a dangerous affiliate of al Qaeda based in Yemen.
At a press conference following the plea hearing Barbara McQuade, the U.S. Attorney in Eastern Michigan said the case "demonstrates that civilian courts are an appropriate forum for dealing with terrorism suspects."
McQuade thanked the attorneys and federal agents and law enforcement officers who worked on the case.
She also praised the crew and passengers of Northwest flight 253.
"They acted with great professionalism and great bravery in subduing the defendant when created this fire on board," McQuade said. "If not for their acts, their quick thinking and swift action, this story may have had a very different ending."
Abdulmutallab will be sentenced Jan. 12, 2012.