Officials Say Passenger Tried To Blow Up Plane
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
I spoke earlier with a passenger who was on the flight. Syed Jafry was sitting in the 16th row, three rows in front of the incident.
M: We were descending towards Detroit, and we were fastening the seatbelt and we were ready. And then all of a sudden, I heard a pop.
SIEGEL: A pop?
M: Yes, a pop like, you could say a firecracker or you could say a firearm. Everybody was kind of startled. They said, what is that? And then, we kind of see some glow. Then there was some sort of a panic. And then next thing I know, there was a lot of people running towards that seat. And I must tell you that cabin crew did a marvelous job.
SIEGEL: The crew did a marvelous job, he said. For more on this incident, we turn now to NPR's Dina Temple-Raston. Dina, what do we know at this point?
DINA TEMPLE: Well, as you said, there's a lot of conflicting information. Law enforcement officials that we talked to say the incident may have been an attempted terrorist attack. But it's really unclear how serious it was. I mean, some officials think it was firecrackers that the man lit. Others say it may have been a more sophisticated device. They're trying to figure that out now. The FBI's questioning the man in Detroit.
SIEGEL: Yes. I gather he's actually in the hospital. What do we know about him?
TEMPLE: Well, representative Peter King of New York has said that the suspect's name is Abdul Mudallad. And he's Nigerian. And apparently, he boarded the flight in Nigeria that went through Amsterdam en route to Detroit. And apparently, he tried to light or detonate something that was fixed to his leg and it failed to go off correctly.
SIEGEL: Now, there are reports that he has claimed an al-Qaida connection. What do you know about that?
TEMPLE: So, what I'm hearing from my law enforcement sources is that they're being very cautious about his claims.
SIEGEL: They don't know quite what to make of him yet, is what you're saying.
TEMPLE: They don't know if he's a nut or if he's a, you know, a dangerous terrorist.
SIEGEL: Right. The White House says that President Obama has been briefed on the incident. What else has the White House done?
TEMPLE: Well, White House spokesman Bill Burton said that - confirmed what happened. He said a man reportedly set off firecrackers, is what they said, on the plane as it arrived in Detroit. And he said that the president was notified this morning, Hawaii time. And he spoke to his national security team, and apparently he's monitoring the situation.
SIEGEL: Again, we're talking about an incident on a flight that was coming into Detroit from Amsterdam. A man evidently tried to set fire to some powdery substance, and then was promptly subdued by the cabin crew and by passengers. And he is now in custody being questioned and, we gather, in the hospital. Dina Temple-Raston, thanks so much.
TEMPLE: You're very welcome.
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