A federal grand jury in Detroit today indicted Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on six charges for allegedly attempting to destroy Northwest flight 253 on Christmas Day. The indictment mirrors a previous criminal complaint against the alleged al Qaeda operative but reveals that the 23-year-old Nigerian used both pentaerythritol (PETN) along with a triacetone triperoxide (TATP) concealed in his underwear.
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Both PETN and TATP are high explosives. The original criminal complaint had only listed PETN as the explosive but the government says a more thorough analysis conducted by the FBI revealed TATP was present as well.
The indictment notes, "The bomb was designed to allow defendant Umar Farouk Abdulmuttallab to detonate it at a time of his choosing, and thereby cause an explosion aboard flight 253."
Abdulmutallab was initially charged Dec. 26, 2009, and was expected to have a detention hearing this Friday in Detroit before a federal judge.
But now that a grand jury has indicted him, Abdulmutallab will instead be arraigned Friday on the six charges against him which include the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, attempted murder, the willful attempt to destroy and wreck an aircraft within the jurisdiction of the U.S., willfully placing a destructive device on an aircraft and two counts of possession of a firearm destructive in furtherance of a crime of violence. Being tried as a criminal defendant has alarmend many conservatives.
"This man is an enemy combatant," says Marc Thiessen, a speechwriter for former President G.W. Bush. "Not a suspect, not a criminal and he should be treated as such." Conservatives argue for military commissions, where defendants have fewer rights. Once in the criminal justice system, they say, the government loses the opportunity to get intelligence.
"This is a guy who has information that we need right away," says Thiessen. "If you indict and negotiate with him and plea bargain with him, you're wasting time. We need this intelligence now before the next attack happens."
If he is convicted of the charges, Abdulmutallab could face life in prison. "The attempted murder of 289 innocent people merits the most serious charges available, and that's what we have charged in this indictment," said U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade. Lawyers at the federal defenders office in Detroit could not be reached for comment.
The charges filed against Abdulmutallab are similar to charges filed against al Qaeda shoe bomber Richard Reid who attempted to ignite a shoe bomb aboard American Airlines flight 63 which landed in Boston in December 2001.
Reid also was charged with interfering with a flight crew when he assaulted a member of the crew.
Abdulmutallab was restrained by passengers who extinguished the attempt to detonate the device. President Obama yesterday told his national security team during a meeting in the White House Situation Room, "We dodged a bullet but just barely….It was averted by brave individuals, not because the system worked, and that is not acceptable."