'Underwear bomber' admits attack
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".
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who acknowledged working for al Qaida and never denied the allegations, entered the plea against his lawyer's advice on the second day of his trial. He stands to get 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 Muhammad and the prophets", it risks "a great calamity ... through the hands of the mujahedeen soon".
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, 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 pants. It failed to go off but his clothes caught fire, and passengers jumped on him when they saw smoke and flames.
The government says Abdulmutallab willingly explained the plot twice, first to US border officers who took him off the plane and then in more detail to FBI agents who interviewed him at a hospital after he was treated for burns to his groin.
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.
Abdulmutallab, who told the judge he is 25, pleaded guilty to all eight charges, including conspiracy to commit terrorism and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. He is scheduled to be sentenced on January 12.