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Attorney for Underwear Bomber calls life sentence 'cruel and unconstitutional'

abdulmutallabOmar021712_optBY ADELE SAMMARCO
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

Three years after unsuccessfully trying to blow-up an airplane with a bomb stitched to his underwear, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, has been sentenced to life in prison.

The Nigerian man was on a suicide mission for al-Qaida as the plane approached Detroit Christmas, 2009.

The well-educated son of a wealthy banker pleaded guilty to all charges on the second day of his trial last fall.

Abdulmutallab said in October that the bomb in his underwear was a "blessed weapon" to avenge poorly treated Muslims around the world.

It had failed to fully detonate on-board the Amsterdam-to-Detroit bound flight, but did cause a small fire that badly burned his groin.

Quick-thinking passengers pounced on Abdulmutallab and forced him to the front of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 where he was held until the plane landed.

The 25-year-old talked openly to the FBI about his desire to commit martyrdom for his Islamic faith.

In 2009, just months before the attack, he traveled to Yemen to meet with Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric and well-known al-Qaida figure, said government officials.

He told investigators his mission was approved after a three-day visit with his mentor.

Just days before Abdulmutallab's trial, Al-Awlaki and the bomb-maker were killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen last year.

Prosecutors called Abdulmutallab an "unrepentant would-be mass murderer who views his crimes as divinely inspired and blessed, and who views himself as under a continuing obligation to carry out such crimes,” according to the Associated Press.

Anthony Chambers, an attorney assigned to defend Abdulmutallab, said a mandatory life sentence was "cruel and unconstitutional punishment for a crime that didn't physically hurt anyone except Abdulmutallab.”

Before sentencing, prosecutors said, "Unsuccessful terrorist attacks still engender fear in the broader public, which, after all, is one of their main objectives."


40-year-old Alain Ghonda, a consultant from Silver Spring, Maryland who was a passenger on Flight 253, said he travels the world with heightened awareness since the failed attack.

"After having that experience, you do not know who's sitting next to you," Ghonda said before Thursday's hearing. "They may look like passengers, but they might want to harm you," according to USA Today.

In addition to passengers, the case had become a turning-point for security screening at American airports.

Abdulmutallab's ability to elude security in Amsterdam contributed to increased usage of full-body scanners at U.S. airports.

The Transportation Security Administration had been using the scanners in some American cities at the time, but the attack sped-up their placement.

Now, there are hundreds of screening devices nationwide.

 

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