This 2001 photo shows Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, far right, on a school… (Mike Rimmer )
Reporting from Johannesburg, South Africa — The family of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man charged with attempting to destroy a transatlantic airliner, expressed shock at his actions in a statement released Monday, adding that they were thankful no lives were lost.
Abdulmutallab's father, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, is a wealthy former Nigerian banker, who recently retired as chairman of First Bank and was a government minister under former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
A statement signed "The Mutallab Family" described the family's alarm in recent months as Abdulmutallab, known to friends and family as Farouk, cut off contact and disappeared.
Pledging to fully cooperate with all investigations, the family said in the statement that the change in Abdulmutallab's behavior was "very recent" and "completely out of character."
His father was so worried about his son's whereabouts and behavior that he had recently reported the issue to Nigerian security agencies and U.S. officials.
"The disappearance and cessation of communication . . . are completely out of character and a very recent development, as before then, from very early childhood, Farouk, to the best of parental monitoring, had never shown any attitude, conduct or association that would give concern," the statement said.
"As soon as concern arose, very recently, his parents reported it and sought help.
"Prior to this incident [the attempted bombing], his father, having become concerned about his disappearance and stoppage of communication while schooling abroad, reported the matter to the Nigerian security agencies about two months ago and to some foreign agencies about a month and a half ago, then sought their assistance to find and return him home.
"We provided them with all the information required of us to enable them to do this. We were hopeful that they would find and return him home. It was while we were waiting for the outcome of their investigation that we arose to the shocking news of that day."
The family added: "We, along with the whole world, are thankful to almighty God that there were no lives lost in the incident. . . . May God continue to protect us all, amen."
Abdulmutallab studied at the British International School in Lome, Togo, before studying mechanical engineering at University College London, graduating in 2008.
He moved to Dubai to study but abandoned his studies there, moved to Yemen and cut ties with his family.