Trial of accused Christmas "underwear" bomber continues

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 12, 2011 8:03 AM
Trial of accused Christmas "underwear" bomber continues

DETROIT (Reuters) - The trial of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, accused of trying to blow up a U.S. airliner in midair on Christmas Day 2009, enters its second day on Wednesday with more testimony expected from a passenger who witnessed the alleged botched suicide attack.

On Tuesday, government prosecutors called Michael Zantow to the stand. Zantow sat one row behind Abdulmutallab on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit and came to the Nigerian's aid after he unsuccessfully attempted to detonate a bomb allegedly supplied to him by al Qaeda members in Yemen.

The device, which was sewn into his underwear, malfunctioned and started a fire in Abdulmutallab's lap.

Zantow described the frantic effort to extinguish the flames as Flight 253 made an emergency landing. He said when passengers pulled Abdulmutallab's burning pants down to his ankles, they exposed underwear he had "never seen before."

"All I know is they were bulky and they were burning," Zantow said. His testimony is expected to continue Wednesday.

The government alleged in pre-trial filings that Abdulmutallab admitted to U.S. interrogators shortly after the failed attack that he was on a martyrdom mission for al Qaeda and had received the bomb and training from militants in Yemen.

In his opening statement on Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel told the jury Abdulmutallab made similar admissions to half a dozen others as Flight 253 made its emergency landing and as he was treated for his burns. Tukel said many of those witnesses will testify in the coming days.

Abdulmutallab, 24, is charged with eight felonies, including conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism, attempted murder, and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. He faces life in prison if convicted.

Al Qaeda's Yemen-based arm claimed responsibility for the attack, which was also praised by Osama bin Laden months before the al Qaeda leader was killed in a U.S. raid in Pakistan.

(Reporting by James B. Kelleher; Editing by Jerry Norton)