DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - A Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a Detroit-bound plane for al-Qaida with a bomb in his underwear has suddenly pleaded guilty on the second day of his trial.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who had never denied the accusations against him, calmly answered questions from U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds before pleading guilty to all eight charges he faced, including conspiracy to commit terrorism and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
“Are you therefore pleading guilty freely and voluntarily?” Edmunds asked.
“That’s right, yes,” Abdulmutallab replied.
He then told the court that the underwear bomb was a “blessed weapon to save the lives of innocent Muslims.”
“The United States should be warned that if they continue to persist and promote the blasphemy of Mohammad and the prophets … the United States should await a great calamity that will befall them through the hands of the mujahedeen soon,” said Abdulmutallab, who faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
“If you laugh with us now we will laugh with you later on the day of judgment,” he said.
The 24-year-old man is accused of unsuccessfully trying to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam with a bomb in his underwear on Christmas 2009. Abdulmutallab is charged with eight crimes, including conspiracy to commit terrorism and the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
WWJ Newsradio 950′s Vickie Thomas spoke with Abdulmutallab’s standby attorney, Anthony Chambers, who thought there were some holes in the government’s case. Chambers said he was disapointed, adding that he felt they had a chance to win the case using a defense of reasonable doubt.
“We wanted to continue the trial, but we respect his decision. Certainly, no lawyer worth his weight in salt would reccomend a plea to life without parole,” Chambers said.
“We wanted to continue the trial but we respect his decision,” Chambers said.
In his opening remarks to jurors on Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel said the son of a wealthy Nigerian banker believed his calling that day was martyrdom. “He was preparing to die and enter heaven,” Tukel said. “He purified himself. He washed. He brushed his teeth. He put on perfume.”
Zantow said he helped move Abdulmutallab out of his burning seat and heard another passenger say: “Hey, dude, your pants are on fire.”
Prosecutors’ evidence was stacked high. Abdulmutallab was badly burned in a plane full of witnesses. The government said he told FBI agents he was working for al-Qaida and directed by Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical, American-born Muslim cleric recently killed by the U.S. in Yemen.
There are also photos of his scorched shorts as well as video of Abdulmutallab explaining his suicide mission before departing for the U.S.
There were 290 people aboard the plane from 26 countries.
Passenger Lori Haskell, 34, of Newport, Mich., watched Abdulmutallab’s plea by video in an overflow room Wednesday. She called his statement in court “chilling” but not surprising.
“I’m just really relieved that it’s done with,” Haskell said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.