Detroit: A young Nigerian man who hid explosives in his underwear aimed to kill nearly 300 people aboard a US-bound airliner on Christmas 2009 so he could achieve martyrdom, US prosecutors said today.
"All of those passengers had plans to be somewhere. All except one: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab," US federal prosecutor Jonathan Tukel said in opening statement.
"He had no plans. He had a mission for Al-Qaeda. His mission, his goal, his sole reason for being on flight 253 was to blow it up.
"He thought by doing that he would end up somewhere else... he thought he would end up in heaven because he would be a martyr."
The plot failed because the explosives stitched in his underwear failed to fully detonate and instead caused a massive fireball.
That fireball could have been deadly but for the swift actions of passengers and crew members who rushed over to put it out as panic and pandemonium broke out on the Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam as it prepared to land in Detroit, Tukel said.
The botched operation triggered global alarm and led the United States to adopt stringent new screening and security measures, including controversial pat downs at airports and a massive expansion of the no-fly list.
The reputation of the nation`s intelligence services also took a hit because Abdulmutallab`s father, a prominent Nigerian banker, had warned the CIA about his son`s growing Islamic radicalisation.
Republicans capitalised on the missteps and the revived security fears to paint President Barack Obama as weak on terror.