Reporting from Washington — On Christmas Day 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab flew into Detroit allegedly trying to detonate a bomb in his underwear in what authorities said was a terrorist mission inspired by Anwar Awlaki, a U.S.-born Muslim radical killed last week in a U.S. missile strike.
On Tuesday, as jury selection began in his federal trial, Abdulmutallab shouted in court, "Anwar is alive!"
Abdulmutallab, 24, is the latest foreign radical to be tried in a U.S. courtroom under American laws they reject. Zacarias Moussaoui, an associate of the Sept. 11 plotters, bragged on the witness stand in Alexandria, Va., of his desire to kill Americans. Shoe bomber Richard Reid in Boston threatened the destruction of the United States. Both were given life in prison — the same fate that could await Abdulmutallab.
He told U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds in Detroit that he wanted to give his own opening and closing statements, possibly as early as next week. When he appeared in court Tuesday in a much-too-large prison T-shirt, the judge suggested he change. He asked to wear a Yemeni robe with a traditional belt and dagger. She allowed a shirt with a collar.
Abdulmutallab is a Nigerian with alleged ties to Al Qaeda in Yemen. He flew to Detroit on Dec. 25, 2009, and allegedly tried to ignite a packet of PETN, a highly flammable explosive. Instead he set his lap on fire as the Northwest Airlines flight descended toward Detroit, authorities said. He pleaded not guilty to eight offenses, including conspiring to commit an act of terrorism.