Prosecutor: Would-be bomber ready to die

Oct. 11, 2011 at 10:09 PM
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DETROIT, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- The Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound plane with explosives in his underwear was prepared for martyrdom, a federal prosecutor said Tuesday.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab brushed his teeth and donned cologne in the bathroom as Northwest Airlines Flight 263 approached its destination on Christmas Day 2009, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel said in his opening statement as the trial began, The Detroit News reported.

"He was purifying himself to get ready to die," Tukel said.

The only witness to testify Tuesday said he thought Abdulmutallab was wearing adult diapers. Michael Zantow, a U.S. Air Force contractor sitting one row behind Abdulmutallab on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009, told the jury he saw the defendant cover himself with a blanket shortly before hearing a loud pop, the News said. The next thing he knew, Zantow said, a passenger sitting alongside Abdulmutallab exclaimed, "Hey dude, your pants are on fire!" and he saw smoke rising from Abdulmutallab's lap toward the cabin ceiling.

Zantow said several passengers rushed Abdulmutallab and subdued him.

"His underwear resembled something I hadn't seen before," Zantow said. "It was bulky, it reminded me of my son's Pull-Ups. I assumed it was adult Pampers."

Tukel told jurors Abdulmutallab was from a well-off family and abandoned a life as a student when he turned to terrorism.

"He wanted jihad, and he sought it out and he found it," Tukel said.

Anthony Chambers, an appointed attorney assisting the 24-year-old Nigerian defendant, chose not to make an opening statement for Abdulmutallab, who otherwise will represent himself at trial. Chambers reserved the right to make one at a later point.

Nancy Edmunds, the presiding U.S. District Court judge, earlier rejected a defense request that prosecutors not be allowed to refer to the underwear bomb as a "bomb" or explosive device. She has yet to rule on another defense motion that jurors not be shown a photo of Abdulmutallab's genital area, which Chambers said has "no value whatsoever," the News said.

Abdulmutallab wore a skullcap and long blue-and-gold dashiki with an intricate gold design as he sat quietly in the courtroom.

Nine women and three men were selected last week to serve on the main jury. Four alternates also were selected.

The trial, which was adjourned for the day after Zantow's testimony, is expected to last four weeks.

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