2012-02-16 / World

Nigerian underwear bomber in court

DETROIT ( AP) — Alain Ghonda travels the globe with heightened awareness after Christmas 2009, when a plane he was on could have been destroyed in midair by a terrorist smuggling a bomb in his underwear.

“After having that experience, you do not know who’s sitting next to you,” said Ghonda, 40, a consultant from Silver Spring, Md., who was a passenger on the Amsterdamto Detroit flight. “They may look like passengers, but they might want to harm you.”

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the privileged son of a wealthy Nigerian banker, returns to federal court in Detroit today to receive a mandatory life sentence for trying to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253, four months after pleading guilty and admitting it was a suicide mission for al-Qaida.

The hearing is an open platform for passengers and crew who want to speak, but only five of nearly 300 are expected to address the court, according to the government.

Abdulmutallab, 25, tried to detonate explosive chemicals that were hidden in his underwear minutes before the plane landed at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The government says he first performed a ritual in the lavatory — brushing his teeth and perfuming himself — and returned to his seat. The device didn’t work as planned, but still produced flame, smoke and panic in the cabin.

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