A Nigerian man has pleaded guilty to trying to bring down a jetliner with a bomb in his underwear, defiantly telling a federal judge that he acted in retaliation for the killing of Muslims worldwide and referring to the failed explosive as a "blessed weapon".
Former London student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who acknowledged working for al Qaida and never denied the allegations, entered the plea yesterday against his lawyer's advice on the second day of his trial.
He stands to receive a mandatory life sentence for the 2009 attack that aimed to kill nearly 300 people on Christmas Day in the skies above Detroit.
Abdulmutallab calmly answered the judge's questions and read a political statement, warning that if the United States continues "to persist and promote the blasphemy of Mohammed and the prophets", it risks "a great calamity ... through the hands of the mujahedeen soon".
"If you laugh at us now, we will laugh at you later on the day of judgment," he said.
Abdulmutallab suggested more than a year ago that he wanted to plead guilty but never did. He dropped his four-person, publicly financed defence team in favour of representing himself with help from a prominent local lawyer appointed by the court, Anthony Chambers.
After the prosecution gave its opening statement on Tuesday, Mr Chambers declined to give one for the defence, preferring to save it for later in the trial. Outside court on Wednesday, he said he had urged his client not to admit anything. "We wanted to continue the trial, but we respect his decision," Mr Chambers said.
The Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight was just moments away from landing when Abdulmutallab tried to detonate the bomb in his underpants. It failed to go off but his clothes caught fire, and passengers jumped on him when they saw smoke and flames.
US attorney general Eric Holder said the plea "removes any doubt that our courts are one of the most effective tools we have to fight terrorism", referring to a long-running debate over whether suspects such as Abdulmutallab should be tried in civilian or military courtrooms.
"We will let results, not rhetoric, guide our actions," Mr Holder said.