Bomb suspect’s disappearance 'out of character', family says

The family of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man charged with trying to blow up a US-bound flight on Christmas Day, says his lack of communication was "out of character" and that they reported his disappearance to security officials months ago.


AFP - The family of a Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a US passenger jet promised Monday full cooperation with security agencies and said his behaviour had only "very recently" given rise to concern.

In its first public statement, his family said that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had broken contact weeks ago and his parents had become so worried that they had contacted Nigerian and foreign security agencies.

Abdulmutallab, 23, was prevented by passengers and crew from detonating explosives on the plane carrying 290 people as it came in to land in Detroit on Christmas Day.

"The disappearance and cessation of communication which got his mother and father concerned to report to the security agencies are completely out of character and a very recent development," the statement said.

"Before then, from very early childhood, Farouk, to the best of parental monitoring, had never shown any attitude, conduct or association that would give concern," said the statement signed by "The Mutallab Family".

"As soon as concern arose, very recently, his parents, reported it and sought help," it said.

Relatives have said previously the would-be bomber, son of a wealthy Nigerian banker whom the family statement named as Alhaji Umar Abdulmutallab, had broken contact with them after announcing that he was studying in Yemen.

The statement added that his father was "concerned about his disappearance and stoppage of communication while schooling abroad".

He had reported the matter to the Nigerian security agencies about two months ago and to some foreign security agencies about a month and a half ago, and sought "their assistance to find and return him home," it said.

"The family will continue to fully cooperate with local and international security agencies towards the investigation of this matter, while we await results of the full investigation," the statement said.

While there was no immediate comment from Nigerian intelligence services, national police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu said he was unaware that any report from the would-be bomber's family had reached police.

Relatives have described Abdulmutallab as a devout Muslim and a brilliant student, and said they were stunned he could have attempted such an attack.

He lived in London between 2005 and 2008 while reading mechanical engineering at University College London. He went on to register at Dubai University before travelling to Yemen, they said.

Reports have said Abdulmutallab confessed to being trained by Al-Qaeda but US security officials have warned against speculating about his links to the group, which was behind the September 11, 2001 suicide attacks carried out with hijacked planes.

In Nigeria's highest-level reaction to the attempted Christmas Day attack, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan said he "lamented" the incident and it would present "another challenge" to Nigeria.

"This will bring unnecessary harassments and scrutiny to other Nigerians who want to travel outside the country," he said late Sunday.

Jonathan is effectively running the country while President Umaru Yar'Adua is being treated in a Saudi hospital for a heart ailment.

Nigeria's main rebel group meanwhile warned in a statement Monday that the country has become a "threat to world peace" and a fertile ground for Islamic extremism.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, behind an insurgency in the oil-rich southern Niger Delta region, said authorities had "persistently turned a blind eye to Islamic extremists coming from northern Nigeria".

Nigeria's 140 million population is roughly divided between Muslims, based mainly in the north, and Christians in the south.


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