By Mark Memmott

"Authorities are investigating reports that a man, claiming to have al-Qaida links, tried to light an incendiary device aboard a Northwest Airlines flight as it approached Detroit" earlier today, the Associated Press writes.

According to the wire service, "the incident is being treated as an apparent act of terrorism."

At this point, much more isn't known about what happened than is known. Delta just released this statement:

"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 flight was arriving from Amsterdam.

The Detroit Free Press writes that:

There was nothing out of the ordinary until the flight was on final approach to Detroit, said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory.
That is when the pilot declared an emergency and landed without incident shortly thereafter, Cory said in an e-mail message. The plane landed at 11:51 a.m.

The newspaper also interviewed a passenger, Syed Jafry of Holland, Ohio, who said he heard "a pop and saw some smoke and fire." Seconds later, other passengers jumped on a man several rows ahead. The Free Press adds that:

Jafry said there was a little bit of commotion for about 10 to 15 minutes. The incident occurred during the plane's descent, he said.
He said the way passengers responded made him proud to be an American

ABC News says "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-Qaida 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."

CNN adds that it has been told by a "senior (Obama) administration official" that "a small explosive device" may have been involved and that the suspect "was placed in custody and is being treated for burns suffered."

President Barack Obama, now on vacation with his family in his native state of Hawaii, has been briefed on the incident, NPR's Don Gonyea reports.

It will likely take some time before exactly what happened becomes clear. Check NPR.org and the news outlets we've linked to above for updates. We'll keep tabs on the story over the weekend as well.

Update at 9:15 a.m. ET, Dec. 26. A few things being reported this morning:

-- NPR's Dina Temple-Raston reports that sources say the suspect was not on the so-called "no-fly list" kept by federal safety officials, but that his name is on an FBI database of people with possible links to terrorists.

He's been identified as a 23-year-old Nigerian man, Abdul Abdulmutallab or -- as the Free Press names him, Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab.

-- The Free Press says the suspect "could face charges as soon as today for attempting to blow up (the) Delta-Northwest flight."

-- An unidentified White House official has told the Detroit News that "we believe this was an attempted act of terrorism."

categories: National Intelligence

7:54 - December 25, 2009