So, by now I think it’s safe to assume just about everyone has heard that a man tried to ignite an explosive device on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.
And while there has been much talk about how this reminds everyone of Richard Reid, the man who brought us limitations on how much liquid you can bring on an airplane, it’s probably worth it to take a couple of minutes to look at where the would be attacker started his flight — Nigeria.
The would be attacker has been identified as Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, a Nigerian national.
It should be noted that while there clearly are concerns that he had Al Qaeda associations and may have been a member of Al Qaeda, there are also reports that, maybe he wasn’t. So, who knows…
If it does turn out that he is connected to Al Qaeda, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise, given the history of interest the group has shown in Nigeria.
As Lawrence Wright pointed out in The New Yorker, “Shortly before the invasion, in March 2003, bin Laden issued his own list of targets (for recruitment), which included Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria…”
In 2006, the House Committee on International Relations held a hearing on terrorism where the deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center testified “there is no question that” Nigeria “is a breeding ground.”
Just a couple of months ago, the BBC ran a story, “Is al-Qaeda working in Nigeria” that stated “for tears diplomats have feared a Nigerian al-Qaeda sleeper cell might launch attacks on the country’s oil infrastructure, which is increasingly important to the US.”
Around the same time, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Nigeria, warning that Al Qaeda could seek a “foothold” there.
A couple of weeks later, Douglas Farah, a former long-time Washington Post reporter who has written extensively on Al Qaeda,went even further and warned in his blog that “there is a large and radicalized Muslim population in norther Nigeria, where 12 of the states (out of 36 in all) have imposed Sharia law.”
He added that while some have dismissed this movement, “given bin Laden’s express interest in Nigeria, the growth of Al Qaeda and the ethnic tensions that play into the tensions, it is unlikely that the Nigerian Taliban is finished.”
Another possible area of concern is that the Telegraph is reporting that Abdul Mutallab supposedly picked up his device in Yemen, which is facing a “growing Al Qaeda threat” and was the scene of an attack Thursday that killed approximately 30 Al Qaeda members including — possibly — an American citizen linked to the Fort Hood shooter and other terrorists.