The U.S. government charged a Nigerian man Saturday with attempting to destroy a Detroit-bound plane and with placing a destructive device on board.
"Had this alleged plot to destroy an airplane been successful, scores of innocent people would have been killed or injured," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. "We will continue to investigate this matter vigorously, and we will use all measures available to our government to ensure that anyone responsible for this attempted attack is brought to justice."
The alleged attack swung into motion Friday as Northwest Airlines flight 253 made its final approach into Detroit. A man identified as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, tried to blow up the plane with 278 people onboard, injuring himself and two other passengers, according to White House and law enforcement officials.
Because of burns he suffered in the incident, Abdulmutallab was arraigned today at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. U.S. District Judge Paul Borman read Abdulmutallab the charges in a conference room at the hospital.
According to an affidavit filed in court today, "[I]ndividuals who were on the flight and who were able to see Abdulmutallab report that prior to the incident, Abdulmutallab went to the bathroom for approximately twenty minutes. Upon returning to his seat, Abdulmutallab stated that his stomach was upset, and he pulled a blanket over himself.
"Passengers then heard popping noises similar to firecrackers, smelled an odor, and some observed Abdulmutallab's pants leg and the wall of the airplane on fire," the affadavit added. "One flight attendant stated that she asked Abdulmutallab what he had had in his pocket, and he replied 'explosive device.' A passenger stated that he observed Abdulmutallab holding what appeared to be a partially melted syringe, which was smoking."
Abdulmutallab, apparently from a well-to-do Nigerian family, was on a terror watch list, law enforcement officials told ABC News, but was not on the government's smaller "no-fly" list.
According to officials briefed on the case, he told authorities he was sent on a mission by al Qaeda operatives in Yemen where he obtained the device along with instructions as to when it should be used.
The FBI and U.S. Intelligence worked furiously to verify his story. The remains of the device were sent for analysis to an FBI explosives lab in Quantico, Va.
Overnight results suggested a highly explosive compound, and that the suspect had a viable bomb but did not execute it properly or it malfunctioned.
After the attempted attack, additional security measures were being put into place in airports across the country, law enforcement sources told ABC News.
"The American people should continue their planned holiday travel and, as always, be observant and aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious behavior or activity to law enforcement officials," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a prepared statement.
"Passengers flying from international locations to U.S. destinations may notice additional security measures in place," she added. "These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same thing everywhere. Due to the busy holiday travel season, both domestic and international travelers should allot extra time for check-in."