Trial Underway for Defiant Alleged “Underwear Bomber”

Posted October 5th, 2011 at 3:40 am (UTC-5)
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The Nigerian man accused of attempting to blow up a U.S. airliner by detonating chemicals in his underwear appeared in a federal court Tuesday, defiantly proclaiming allegiance to al-Qaida as his trial opened in of Detroit.

In an outburst before the judge entered the courtroom, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who has become known as “the underwear bomber,” vowed that Islamist militants will “wipe out the U.S.” He also shouted, “Anwar is alive,” in reference to the American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in an airstrike in Yemen last week.

Abdulmutallab appeared in court Tuesday for the first day of jury selection wearing an oversized white T-shirt, but the judge immediately ordered him to change into an outfit that would make a better impression on jurors. The judge had previously rejected Abdulmutallab's request to wear a Yemeni-style belt with a dagger to the proceedings.

The 24-year-old Nigerian was arrested on Christmas Day, 2009 after being subdued by passengers when his explosives failed to detonate on board a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

Abdulmutallab faces eight criminal counts, including conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism. U.S. investigators believe Abdulmutallab received training and advice from al-Qaida operatives in Yemen, including Anwar al-Awlaki.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and has decided to represent himself since firing his court-appointed defense attorneys in September.

When Abdulmutallab flew to Detroit, his name was in a broad database of individuals who were suspected of having some link to terrorism. But he was not on higher-profile watch lists that might have caught the attention of security screeners. The so-called “no-fly list” has since been expanded, and several stringent new security measures have subsequently been implemented at U.S. airports.