Federal officials and police are interviewing a Nigerian man, who allegedly tried to "explode" a powdery substance aboard a Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, injuring himself and two other passengers, law enforcement officials said.
The man said he was directed by al Qaeda to explode a small device in flight, over U.S. soil, ABC News has learned. Authorities have no corroboration of that information, and the credibility of the suspect's statements are being questioned, officials said.
The suspect was identified as Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, who according to federal documents is an engineering student at University College of London.
He was flying from Nigeria to the United States for a religious seminar, according to his entry visa, which was issued June 16, 2008 and was good until June 12, 2010.
The government had no immediate plans after the incident to raise the threat level, a federal government source said. The threat level has been at "orange" since 2006.
The suspect had been in a law enforcement-intelligence database but was not on the government's no-fly list, according to a law enforcement official.
"The subject is claiming to have extremist affiliation and that the device was acquired in Yemen along with instructions as to when it should be used," a federal situational awareness bulletin stated.
Delta spokeswoman Susan Chana Elliott said that "as the plane was getting ready to land" in Detroit "a passenger caused a disturbance" by trying to ignite what was initially reported to be firecrackers.
The man was "subdued immediately," Elliott said. Northwest is a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta.
"There was one guy, who sat on the other side, the right side of the wing because this was on the left side of the wing, and he jumped over the other people and he took care of it," said passenger Peter Smith.
The suspect told authorities that he had explosive powder taped to his leg and used a syringe of chemicals to mix with the powder that was to cause explosion. This is of concert because it is a method of mixing that is consistent with terror techniques.
Northwest Airlines flight 253 -- operated on a Delta airplane -- landed safely in Detroit at 11:53 a.m. The man, who flew from Nigeria to Amsterdam and then Detroit, was taken into custody at the Detroit airport and was interviewed by authorities there. He was then taken to an area hospital to be treated for burns.
An in-flight emergency was declared when a fire indicator light when on in the cockpit, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The pilot asked for airport rescue and firefighting services, and for law enforcement to meet the flight at gate, the TSA said.
It is unclear how powerful the explosive could have been and what the man's intentions were. Initial reports were that fireworks or firecrackers had gone off on the plane.