Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab: Fundamentalists whose failed bid in 2010 to bomb an airplane with 289 people on board lend credence to fears that Nigeria was becoming a fertile ground for extremist recruitment. Farouk was a model student, keen, enthusiastic. Often he would stay behind to discuss items in the lesson or in the news. Farouk started to express extremist views after 9/11, 2001 when in a class discussion about the Taliban in Afghanistan; he maintained their stand was acceptable. While other school mates socialised, Farouk sought a link with al-Qaeda, the international terrorist’s cell headed by Osama bin Laden. Thus, upon graduation from UCL in June 2008, Farouk began a tour of Egypt, Dubai and Yemen. In his social media postings, Farouk wrote of being born in 1986 and attending an elite British boarding school in Togo, where many of his classmates were British expatriates and students from around West Africa. It was at San’a Institute for Arabic Language, Yemen where it is suspected Abdulmutallab was radicalized.
One of 16 children son of Umar Mutallab, ex-Chairman of First Bank Nigeria, Farouk had, from childhood, held on to his religious beliefs. As a secondary school student at the British International School in Lome, Togo, Farouk was reported to be an unflinching preacher of the tenets of Islam. He would occasionally gather his school mates around, preaching the gospel to them, earning himself the sobriquet of an Alfa in the process. Farouk had been among a number of pupils taken to London by his Togolese school in 2001 and 2002, when aged 13 and 14. At one stage on the trip, Farouk had become upset because several older students had visited a pub and he thought it should not have been allowed on religious grounds. Rather than spend money on souvenirs in London, Farouk had donated £50 to an orphanage. At one stage, his nickname was “the Pope”. An unsuitable one because his muslim background, but he did have this saintly aura.
In Dubai, Farouk was enrolled to study for a Master of Business Administration, MBA, degree at the University of Wollongong, Dubai, but he spurned the offer after seven months. By this time, Farouk had already established a formidable link with a terrorist cell in Yemen. It was at this point that he reportedly declared to his family members that he did not want to have anything to do with any of them again. Each time he visited Nigeria he avoided his family home. He complained of loneliness and inability to find a true muslim friend[i].
While in the plane, Farouk visited the rest room frequently. At a point, he returned to his seat, behaved as if he had a stomach upset and covered himself up with a blanket. Suddenly, fire erupted from his thigh region and other passengers became startled. However, Jaspter Schuringa, a Dutch tourist, noticed the mischief in Farouk. He lunged himself on Farouk, putting out the fire before alerting the cabin crew. Farouk was promptly arrested and taken to the Ann Arbor University Hospital, where he was treated for burns sustained during the misadventure. He was subsequently arraigned and charged with attempting to destroy an aircraft and placing a destructive device in the plane. Farouk admitted he has ties with the al-Qaeda network, corroborating an earlier statement by the group that it was responsible for the attack.
[i] TheNews, January 11, 2010