A US judge ruled Wednesday that a young Nigerian man is fit to stand trial over allegations he tried to blow up a packed transatlantic airliner using explosives hidden in his underpants.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 24-year-old Nigerian student known popularly as the “Underwear bomber”, fired his lawyers last year and has attempted to represent himself in the complex terror trial.
Judge Nancy Edmunds has repeatedly urged Abdulmutallab to accept help from Anthony Chambers, a prominent Detroit attorney she appointed as backup counsel.
“I believe I’m competent to proceed by myself,” he told the judge after Chambers filed a motion seeking a competency hearing against Abdulmutallab’s wishes.
Edmunds ruled that he was competent to stand trial after asking him a series of questions to ensure he understood the charges.
“I’ve not had any reason to question his competence,” Edmunds said.
The son of a prominent Nigerian banker, Abdulmutallab was arrested after the botched Christmas Day 2009 plot attributed to Al-Qaeda, in which explosives allegedly stitched into his underwear failed to detonate aboard the Northwest flight from Amsterdam as it prepared to land in Detroit.
Passengers and crew were able to restrain Abdulmutallab and put out the small fire aboard the flight, which was carrying 279 passengers and 11 crew members.
The foiled bombing triggered global alarm, leading the United States to adopt stringent new screening and security measures at airports around the world.
Abdulmutallab faces life in prison if convicted on eight federal terrorism-related charges ranging from attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction to conspiring to engage in an act of terrorism.
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