A male passenger possibly linked to terrorist organization Al Qaeda ignited a powdery substance prior to landing on a Delta Airlines flight to Detroit Friday, Fox News confirmed. The man is believed to be Nigerian.
Several people were hurt and one person, possibly the suspect, was admitted to the University of Michigan Medical Center at Ann Arbor, hospital spokeswoman Tracy Justice said. An emergency was declared aboard the flight, operated as Northwest flight 253, according to a Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson.
The suspect, who ABC reported suffered second-degree burns, told federal investigators he was connected to Al Qaeda, though authorities are questioning the veracity of that statement, Fox News confirmed. A federal situational awareness bulletin noted that the explosive was acquired in Yemen with instructions as to when it should be used, ABC said.
The FBI was on the scene, Detroit office spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold told NewsCore. Berchtold declined to comment on the reports of a terrorist connection.
President Barack Obama was notified of the incident by a military aide while vacationing with his family in Hawaii and convened a secure conference call with Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism Adviser John Brennan and NSS Chief of Staff Denis McDonough to discuss it, White House spokesman Bill Burton said.
“He asked to arrange a subsequent secure call and in that call instructed that all appropriate measures be taken to increase security for air travel. The President is actively monitoring the situation and receiving regular updates,” Burton said in a statement.
Early reports suggested the suspect ignited firecrackers on board the Airbus A330 wide-body jet, but a law enforcement official told Fox News the explosive has not yet been identified.
All 278 passengers on the plane, which landed around noon local time, deplaned at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, Delta spokesperson Susan Elliott said.
“Out of an abundance of caution, the plane was moved to a remote area where the plane and all baggage are currently being rescreened. A passenger is in custody and passengers are being interviewed,” the Transportation Security Administration said in a statement.
It was not immediately clear if the suspect was subdued by crew or passengers.
Passengers traveling for the remainder of Christmas Day “may notice additional screening measures put into place to ensure the safety of the traveling public,” Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Sara Kuban said in a statement. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano has been briefed on the incident.