The student accused of trying to blow up a transatlantic jet may have been an “opportunist” like shoe-bomber Richard Reid, a terror expert said today.
Londoner Reid, an al-Qaida supporter, was jailed for life for attempting to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight in 2001 with explosives hidden in his footwear.
Evidence surrounding Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab drew “obvious parallels” with Reid, said Professor Paul Wilkinson, a terror specialist at St Andrews University.
He said: “On the strength of the evidence I have seen, there is nothing to suggest this suspect was particularly advanced.
“If this was al-Qaida related he was probably given some instruction or device and told to take the chance when he could.
“AQ’s modus operandi is that they operate on all sorts of different levels. This particular case reminds me of Richard Reid, the shoe-bomber.
“The fact he has managed to get his leg on fire after getting through security is surprising.
“Big questions will have to be asked about airport security if this was a sophisticated device but as it stands I think this was more likely to be opportunist.”
Intelligence and anti-terrorism officials in Yemen said they were investigating claims by the suspect that he picked up the explosive device and instructions on how to use it in that country.