ROMULUS, Mich. – An attempted terrorist attack on a Christmas Day flight began with a pop and a puff of smoke — sending passengers scrambling to subdue a Nigerian man who claimed to be acting on orders from al-Qaida to blow up the airliner, officials and travelers said. British officials on Saturday were searching the last known address of the suspect, who was thought to be an engineering student at University College London, one of the United Kingdom’s leading universities, according to Sky News. The commotion began as Northwest Airlines Flight 253, carrying 278 passengers and 11 crew members from Amsterdam, prepared to land in Detroit just before noon Friday. Travelers said they smelled smoke, saw a glow, and heard what sounded like firecrackers.
The suspect boarded in Nigeria and went through Amsterdam en route to Detroit, Peter King, the ranking Republican member of the House Homeland Security Committee, told CNN. A spokeswoman for police at the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam declined comment about the case or about security procedures at the airport for Flight 253. Dutch airline KLM says the connection in Amsterdam from Lagos, Nigeria, to Detroit involves a change in carrier and a change in aircraft. Schiphol airport, one of Europe’s busiest with a heavy load of transit passengers from Africa and Asia to North America, strictly enforces European security regulations including only allowing small amounts of liquid in hand luggage that must be placed inside clear plastic bags.
A spokesman for the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Akin Olukunle, said all passengers and their luggage are screened before boarding international flights. He also said the airport in Lagos cleared a U.S. Transportation Security Administration audit in November.
“We had a pass mark,” Olukunle said. “We actually are up to standards in all senses.”
These are some sad times around the holidays.