On February 15, the sentencing hearing was held in Michigan in the case of Umar Abdulmutallab (photo), the young Nigerian man convicted of attempting to detonate a bomb on an airplane over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. At that hearing, a most compelling statement was read by Kurt Haskell, a passenger onboard Northwest Flight 253, the same flight chosen by Abdulmutallab to carry out his potentially catastrophic mission. Abdulmutallab was sentenced to life in prison for his crimes.
From the day after the attack, this reporter has covered every stage of the arrest, interrogation, and trial of the man inelegantly dubbed the “Underwear Bomber.” As part of my research for one of the articles in that series, I interviewed Mr. Haskell, an attorney specializing in bankruptcy and family law. At that time, Haskell related to me that he and his wife Lori were on their way back to Michigan from a Ugandan safari when they boarded Northwest Flight 253 in Amsterdam.
Haskell reported that as they sat near the gate waiting to board their flight, they witnessed a well-dressed man, who was accompanying a poorly dressed younger companion, trying to convince boarding agents to allow the poorly dressed man, whom they now recognize as Umar Abdulmutallab, to board the plane, despite not having a passport. Haskell recalls having his attention drawn to the shabby dress of the man without a passport and then listening with curiosity to the unusual conversation between the suited man and the ticket agent.
The ticket agent told the well-dressed man that she would need to inform her manager of the situation, and the man in the suit responded, “He’s from Sudan. We do this all the time.”
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