Terrorism Charges Filed in Detroit Airplane Incident
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23 year old Nigerian who was apprehended after a foiled attempt to allegedly detonate an explosive device on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, has been charged via complaint in the Eastern District of Michigan with willful attempt to destroy an aircraft and willfully placing and causing to be placed a destructive device on an aircraft. Both carry up to 20 years in prison. The DOJ manual explains the offenses here. The statute is here. Abdulmutallab is charged under sections (a)(1), (a)(2) and (a)(8).
[P]assengers told authorities that Abdulmutallab went into a bathroom on the plane for about 20 minutes. When he returned, he said he had a stomach ache and covered himself with a blanket. Moments later, passengers heard a pop, smelled smoke and the ensuing fire.
A preliminary FBI analysis found that the device contained the high explosive pentaerythritol, according to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint. The FBI also found what look like remnants of a syringe believed to have been part of the device.
The complaint is here (pdf.) The Government alleges that PETN is a destructive device under 18 USC 921 (a)(4). A passenger took a smoking syringe from Abdulmutallab, shook it to make it stop smoking and threw it on the floor of the aircraft. (Interesting that the passenger knew to do that. Sounds risky and dangerous to me.) [More...]
PETN came up during the OKC bombing trial. The FBI claimed there was residue of PETN on McVeigh's clothing. At trial the chemist testified it would have had to come from an explosive device (transcript here) but later was found to have acknowledged in a deposition it is also found in heart medications. No PETN was found at the scene of the bombing.
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