Police in the U.K. are searching a number of locations in connection with an alleged attempt to blow up a jet carrying 278 people as it landed in Detroit, while authorities meet with a Nigerian banker that may be the father of the suspect.
Multiple law enforcement officials identified the suspect in Friday’s attempted attack as Nigerian national, Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab. He was reportedly an engineering student at London’s University College.
U.S. authorities claim he has links to Al Qaeda and are working with London Metropolitan police to search addresses with possible connections to the suspected terror attack.
Former bank official Alhaji Umaru Mutallab says he traveled from his home in the Nigeria’s Muslim-dominated north to meet officials in Abuja, the capital. The elder Mutallab says his son left London to travel, though he did not know where to.
“I believe he might have been to Yemen, but we are investigating to determine that,” Mutallab said.
The suspect’s family is reportedly wealthy and that the apartment he was living in is in an upscale building.
A spokeswoman for Scotland Yard said that U.K. police are in contact with U.S. authorities and that searches are being carried out at addresses in central London.
She refused to confirm the number and location of the searches.
Mutallab was apprehended by fellow passengers and crew on flight 253, from Amsterdam to Detroit yesterday, as he tried to detonate an incendiary device of powder and liquid strapped to his leg. The mixture failed to explode properly but caught fire, leaving him with third degree burns, the London Times reports.
Mutallab has reportedly told investigators he is linked to Al Qaeda and obtained the explosives in Yemen.
An intelligence official said he was being questioned and treated in an Ann Arbor, Mich., hospital. The hospital said one passenger from the flight was taken to the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, but referred all inquiries to the FBI.
Melinda Dennis, who was seated in the front row of the plane, said the man involved was brought to the front row and seated near her. She said his legs appeared to be badly burned and his pants were cut off. She said he was taken off the plane handcuffed to a stretcher.
One law enforcement official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mutallab’s name had surfaced earlier on at least one U.S. intelligence database, but he was not on a watch list or a no-fly list.
Abdulmutallab’s alleged U.K. links have also led to heightened security at airports and on all flights to the U.S. from Britain, the London Times reports.
A Department for Transport spokeswoman said, “In response to events in Detroit the US authorities have requested additional measures for U.S.-bound flights.
“We are monitoring the situation and will make any assessments as necessary as this develops.”
Although general airport security remains the same, with no change to luggage and liquid restrictions, passengers travelling to the US can expect increased searches at the gate before boarding.
The incident was reminiscent of Richard Reid, who tried to destroy a trans-Atlantic flight in 2001 with explosives hidden in his shoes, but was subdued by other passengers.