Nigerian ‘Underwear Bomber’ Faces Sentencing in U.S.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutal-lab

Thursday is the D-day for Umar Farouk Abdulmutal-lab, the Nigerian who attempted to detonate an underwear bomb aboard a Detroit-bound American aircraft on Christmas Day in 2009.

His sentencing, which was earlier slated for last month, is coming up almost 26 months after he was arrested and he faces the maximum life sentence in jail.

After his sentencing today, Abdulmutallab, currently being detained at a federal prison in Milan, may be moved to federal super-maximum prison in Florence, Colorado, where other convicted terrorists are serving their time.

The 25-year-old Nigerian, who was 23-year-old at the time of the botched bombing of the American aircraft, had, last October, pleaded guilty to the charges, which included the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted murder of 289 people.

Ahead of the sentencing, his court-appointed lawyer, Anthony Chambers, had already filed a document arguing that a mandatory life sentence for the Nigerian would be unfair for a crime that didn’t hurt any passenger on that flight.

Chambers, in that filing, even argued that the only passenger injured was Abdulmuttallab, who had his groin severely burnt before the fire ignited by the bomb in his underwear was put out by other passengers on the Northwest Airlines Flight 253.

In the course of his trial, Abdulmutallab admitted working for al-Qaeda on that botched mission, and praised two of its main figures, Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki, both of whom were killed by US Navy Seals and a drone attack respectively.

Also, while pleading guilty to the charges last year, Abdulmutallab had justified his action saying: “I attempted to use an explosive device which in the US law is a weapon of mass destruction, which I call a blessed weapon to save the lives of innocent Muslims, for US use of weapons of mass destruction on Muslim populations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and beyond.”

His botched mission to bomb Flight 253 led to the classification of Nigeria, along with nine other nations, as “countries of interest” on a US terror watch list.

That classification led to air travellers flying into US from Nigeria or any of the countries of interest being subjected to enhanced screening techniques, such as body scans, pat-downs and thorough search of carry-on luggage.

However, increased diplomatic engagements between Nigeria and US, led to the setting aside of the “countries of interest list” in April of 2010. Relations between both countries further improved over the last 21 months following the signing of a Bi-national Commission Agreement (BNC).