American security services received intelligence suggesting “a Nigerian” in Yemen was planning a terrorist attack weeks before a passenger jet was targeted on Christmas Day, reports said today.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, is being held at a federal prison in Michigan on a charge of trying to destroy an aircraft.
He 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.
US network ABC News reported that information had been received by US authorities suggesting an attack might be imminent.
Yesterday US president Barack Obama criticised “systemic” failings 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.”
Meanwhile, it has emerged Adulmutallab oversaw a week-long “war on terror” 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 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.
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.