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Life in prison for 'proud to kill' underwear bomber

17 february 2012, 18:29
This courtroom drawing shows accused Christmas Day Bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in Federal court in Detroit. ©REUTERS/Rebecca Cook
This courtroom drawing shows accused Christmas Day Bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in Federal court in Detroit. ©REUTERS/Rebecca Cook
Unrepentant to the last, the Nigerian "underwear bomber" who tried to blow up a packed airliner in a botched Al-Qaeda plot on Christmas Day 2009 was handed multiple life sentences by a US judge Thursday, AFP reports.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 25, declared he was "proud to kill in the name of God" as he defended his attempt to murder 289 people on board Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines Flight 253.

The failed suicide bomber said he was carrying out the work of God against the "oppressors" of Muslims and insisted that slain Al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaqi "are alive and shall be victorious by God's grace."

"Today is a day of victory and God is great," the slight young man, dressed in a white skull cap and an oversized white T-shirt, said in a brief address to the packed Detroit courtroom.

Abdulmutallab showed no emotion as Judge Nancy Edmunds handed down the maximum sentences for the eight counts to which he pleaded guilty in October, which amount to four consecutive life sentences and an addition 50 years behind bars.

"The defendant has stated and it is clear that he has enormous motivation to carry out another terrorist attack," Edmunds said.

"This court has no ability to control the defendant's motivation, which does appear to be unchanged, however I can control the defendant's opportunity to carry out those actions."

US Attorney General Eric Holder hailed the verdict, calling Abdulmutallab "a remorseless terrorist who believes it is his duty to kill Americans."

Prosecutor Barbara McQuade said the sentence "sends a message that America will not be defeated by Al-Qaeda -- we will persist, we will persevere, we will always fight back and we will allow our open system of justice to give the public confidence around the world."

The botched attack sparked global alarm and caused the United States to tighten up both its no-fly lists and airport screening systems.

The reputation of the US intelligence services also took a hit because Abdulmutallab's father, a prominent Nigerian banker, had warned the CIA about his son's growing radicalization.

Despite stringent security measures at airports in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Abdulmutallab managed to smuggle more than 76 grams of the explosive Pentaerythritol tetranitrate on board the flight from Amsterdam.

Luckily, the bomb hidden in his underwear failed to properly detonate and instead simply caused a fire as the plane began its descent to Detroit.

Passengers and crew members were able to restrain Abdulmutallab and extinguish the blaze, allowing pilots to safely land the plane.

Abdulmutallab's surprise guilty plea on the second day of his October trial left many questions unanswered.

Thursday's sentencing hearing gave several of his intended victims the opportunity to weigh in.

"I've never been that scared in my life and I hope never to be scared like that again," said passenger Lori Haskell, who still has nightmares about the fire and pandemonium aboard flight 253.

"I am thankful I'm still alive but what the defendant did caused lifetime harm to me and everyone else on that plane."

Lemare Mason, a crew member who helped extinguish the blaze, said that his life was changed by the botched attack.

"I had a dream job of traveling the world and meeting all types of people," said Mason, who still wakes up sweating in fear that someone will blow up a plane he's on and kill him.

"It is punishing going to work now. It is not a joy."

The extent of Awlaqi's involvement emerged in a prosecution memo filed last week, which shed light on the US government's still officially unacknowledged decision to kill the US-born cleric in a drone strike.

Abdulmutallab told investigators that he had been following Awlaqi online for years and traveled to Yemen in August 2009 to seek out the radical preacher.

He was driven through the desert to Awlaqi's home after tracking down him down through local mosques and spent three days with him before being accepted for a suicide bombing mission.

He then met with a bomb maker and spent two weeks at a training camp where he "received instruction in weapons and indoctrination in jihad."

Awlaqi gave the martyrdom plan "final approval" and told Abdulmutallab to wait until the plane was over US soil before detonating the explosive, the memo said.

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