Airline bomb suspect stage 'terror' conference in London

Airline bomb suspect stage 'terror' conference in London

The Christmas Day airline bomb plot suspect helped organise a “war on terror” conference while studying in the UK, it emerged today.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab oversaw the week-long event, held two years ago, during his time as president of University College London’s (UCL) Islamic society.

A series of lectures were held at the UCL from January 29 2007 to February 2 2007, including one called “Jihad Vs Terrorism”.

It was billed as a “lecture on the Islamic position with respect to Jihad and other issues”.

Advertised speakers included Respect MP George Galloway.

A note on posters produced to promote the event said it had been “approved by Umar Farook – President of UCLU Islamic Society”.

The Nigerian, now known as Umar Farouk, studied an engineering degree at the university between 2005 and 2008 – and was Islamic society president from 2006 to 2007.

He is being held at a federal prison in Michigan on a charge of trying to destroy an aircraft.

The 23-year-old allegedly attempted to ignite explosive stored in his underpants as the flight from Amsterdam, carrying 280 passengers, made its final descent into Detroit on Friday.

The Dutch government said a preliminary investigation had found all security checks were carried out correctly and a passenger list, including Abdulmutallab’s name, had been cleared by American authorities.

US President Barack Obama criticised a "systemic failure'' that allowed Abdulmutallab to board the flight.

He said information passed on by the suspect’s father was not acted on correctly.

“Where our government has information on a known extremist and that information is not shared and acted upon as it should have so that this extremist boarded a plane with dangerous explosives that could have cost nearly 300 lives, a systemic failure has occurred and I consider that totally unacceptable,” he said.

“We need to learn from this episode and act quickly to fix the flaws in our system because our security is at stake and lives are at stake.”

He added: “There were bits of information available within the intelligence community which could have, and should have, been pieced together.

“Had this critical information been shared, it could have been compiled with other intelligence and a fuller clearer picture of the suspect would have emerged.

“The warning signs would have triggered red flags and the suspect would have never been allowed to board that plane for America.”

Anti-terrorism intelligence systems established following the 9/11 attacks were also not fully utilised, he said.

Abdulmutallab reportedly told FBI agents he was one of many would-be terrorists in Yemen ready to carry out attacks in the near future.

His wealthy family said they believed he was radicalised while attending the British International School in Lome, the capital of Togo.

After he broke off contact, they approached foreign security agencies expressing concern about his state of mind and requesting help to find him.

UK Home Secretary Alan Johnson said Abdulmutallab was banned from entering Britain and placed on a “watch list” in May.

Security sources said he had been monitored by MI5 after applying for a bogus course.

Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, an alliance of militants based in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, claimed responsibility for the failed attack, saying it was retaliation for a US operation against the group in Yemen.

The group said the attack failed because a “technical error” prevented the device detonating.

Photographs apparently showing the underpants filled with explosives allegedly worn by Abdulmutallab were broadcast by US network ABC News. The American government pictures show the singed underwear with a six-inch packet of a high explosive called PETN sewn into the crotch.

ABC News said Abdulmutallab was carrying about 80g of PETN – more than one-and-a-half times the amount carried by “shoe bomber” Richard Reid in 2001 and enough to blow a hole in the side of an aircraft.

Abdulmutallab, described by his former UCL tutors as “well-mannered, quietly spoken, polite and able”, spoke of his loneliness and struggle between liberalism and Islamic extremism in a series of postings on Facebook and in Islamic chatrooms, the Washington Post reported.

In January 2005, when at boarding school, he wrote: “I have no one to speak too. No one to consult, no one to support me and I feel depressed and lonely. I do not know what to do. And then I think this loneliness leads me to other problems.”

Yemeni foreign minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi said there were as many as 300 al Qaida militants planning terror attacks from his country and appealed for more help from the international community to train and equip forces to root them out.

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