Sunday, December 27, 2009

PETN Explosive Confirmed explosive substance which Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, 23, a Nigerian national, attempted to set off on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 during final approach to Detroit, has been identified. It was IDed as PETN explosive, which was also the explosive chosen by Richard Reid for his plot to blow up the Boeing 767 he was traveling in from Paris to Miami on Dec. 22nd, 2001.

PETN explosive was first synthesized in 1891 by Tollens and Wiegand. In 1912, after being patented by the German government, the production of PETN started, with PETN being used by the German Army in World War I. PETN is also one of the ingredients in Semtex plastic explosive.

Authorities suspect that the PETN explosive was carried in some sort of soft plastic or latex container. In fact, officials said something like a condom could have been used. It is probable that the container was destroyed in the fire that occurred as Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab lit the explosive, which had apparently been attached to his leg.

As the same time that the explosive device on Flight 253 has been identified as PETN explosive, Mutallab has been charged in a federal criminal complaintwith attempting to destroy a Northwest Airlines aircraft on its final approach to Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Christmas Day, and with placing an explosive device on the aircraft, the Department of Justice said. Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab will make his initial court appearance later today, the Justice Department added.

Many questions still exist in the Flight 253 incident. Mutallab has said he had contact with Yemeni al-Qaida operatives, who gave him the device and instructions. The confirmation that it was PETN explosive might point in that direction, as it would have required more resources than Mutallab would have.

Meanwhile, Mutallab’s father, a retired banker in Nigeria, has been questioned in the Nigerian capital of Abuja. Nigeria’s This Day newspaper reported that family members said the elder Mutallab had been uncomfortable with his son’s “extreme religious views.” The paper added that the elder Mutallab had reported his son to the U.S. Embassy in the capital Abuja and to Nigerian security agencies as long as six months ago.

Written by Michael Santo

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