Authorities say a Northwest Airlines flight in Detroit was the target of a bomb attempt by a man with links to al-Qaida today.
The Airbus 330 was carrying 278 passengers, but the explosive device failed. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing, NPR reported.
"We were descending and ... all of the sudden I heard a pop," passenger Syed Jafry of Holland, Mich., told NPR's Robert Siegel. "Like, you could say, a firecracker or ... a firearm. And everybody was kind of startled -- What was that? And then we kind of see some glow, and then there was some sort of a panic."
Now the obvious question: How did the man get the device through security?
BusinessWeek reports the 'device' was firecrackers.
The Washington Post describes a more intricate use of easily obtainable material.
Federal authorities have been told that Abdulmutallab allegedly had taped some material to his leg, then used a chemical-laden syringe to mix with the powder while on board the airplane, one official said. Officials described the device as incendiary rather than explosive, pending tests by forensics experts at the FBI. Incendiary devices generally deliver less of an impact than explosive devices.
Federal officials say security at airports is now being tightened, but they didn't indicate precisely how. One security expert says the American public are going to have to get over any opposition to a full body scan.
"The American public has been adamant that they do not want body scans," Douglas Laird, the former security director for Northwest Airlines said. "I think that is crazy because if you want to keep dangerous items off of airplanes, you'll have to have body scans."
The flight was Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam. Delta, Northwest's parent, issued this statement this evening:
"Upon approach to Detroit, a passenger caused a disturbance onboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253. The passenger was subdued immediately and the crew requested that law enforcement meet the flight upon arrival. The flight, operated by Northwest using an Airbus 330-300 aircraft with 278 passengers onboard, landed safely. The passenger was taken into custody and questioned by law enforcement authorities. Delta is cooperating fully with authorities and additional questions should be directed to law enforcement officials who are leading the investigation."
The Detroit Free Press has a few photographs here.
The incident also shows that in the new era of airport security, the most effective weapons against potential terrorism are passengers.