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Suspect went through death ritual on plane

Associated Press / October 12, 2011

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DETROIT - Moments before he attempted to bring down an American jetliner, a young Nigerian man on a mission for Al Qaeda retreated to the plane’s lavatory for a long cleansing ritual to prepare for death, prosecutors told jurors yesterday.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab prayed, washed himself, brushed his teeth, and put on perfume, then returned to his seat and tried to detonate a bomb in his underwear, Assistant US Attorney Jonathan Tukel said in his opening statement at the start of the man’s trial.

Virtually everyone else aboard the Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight had holiday plans back on Christmas Day 2009, but Abdulmutallab believed his calling was martyrdom, Tukel said.

In the plane’s bathroom, “he was engaging in rituals. He was preparing to die and enter heaven,’’ the prosecutor said.

Abdulmutallab’s attorney, Anthony Chambers, surprised the courtroom when he announced he would save his opening statement until later in the trial.

That means the jury will not hear any hint of the defense case, possibly for weeks, while the government calls a parade of witnesses.

Technically, Abdulmutallab is representing himself, but he is relying on Chambers as standby counsel. Much of what Tukel described was already known from eyewitness accounts, pretrial testimony, and government statements.

Abdulmutallab said the bomb was made without metal to get past airport security but contained a dangerous powder chemical, PETN, that was obtained in Yemen about three weeks earlier, Tukel said.

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