Monday, January 4, 2010
NEWS FLASH- Xmas bomber was in Ghana for 2 weeks
Officials in Ghana said Monday that suspected airline bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab spent more than two weeks in that country before mounting his attempted Christmas attack on a Northwest Airlines flight, but said they didn't know how Mr. Abdulmutallab spent his time there or who he met with.
Ghanaian officials also criticized U.S. and U.K. officials for not sharing information about Mr. Abdulmutallab before his arrival in Ghana.
The Ghanaian government said Mr. Abdulmutallab arrived in Accra on December 9, earlier than was previously believed. He stayed for just over two weeks before flying to Lagos to board his flight to Amsterdam, where he connected to another Detroit-bound flight that he attempted to attack with explosives sewn into his underpants.
Deputy Information Minister Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa said that Mr. Abdulmutallab arrived at 3:20 a.m. on December 9, on an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Dubai via Addis Ababa. As a citizen of the West African economic bloc Ecowas, Mr. Abdulmutallab is allowed to stay in Ghana for up to 90 days without a visa.
He was processed without any problems because the Ghanaian government had not been alerted about a possible threat from Mr. Abdulmutallab, Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa said. Mr. Abdulmutallab's father had alerted U.S. and Nigerian authorities to his concern about his son's growing extremism, and British officials, in May 2009, denied Mr. Abdulmutallab a student visa to re-enter that country, where he had graduated from university in 2008.
"What we have concerned about has been the lack of sharing information," he said. "We had been working closely with American and British partners, our global partners, but nobody at any point in time shared information about any such Abdulmutallab. When the incident happened it came as a surprise to all of us."
According to the government, Mr. Abdulmutallab wrote on his immigration form that he would be staying at the Holiday Inn in Accra, but checked into another hotel in town. Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa declined to name the hotel, saying that the government was concerned about harming its business. He said security officials had spoken with the hotel management and people in the area, but that so far they had not turned up anything that suggested possible criminal activity.
During his stay in Accra, Mr. Abdulmutallab kept a low profile, Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa said. "So far we have not had any indication that he engaged with people generally," he said. "He wasn't seen walking around. He appeared to have kept a rather quiet and private life. So far we have not stumbled on who he met with, or whether he met with anybody."
Ghanaian officials confirmed an earlier statement from Nigerian officials that Mr. Abdulmutallab had purchased his ticket to the U.S. in cash at a KLM office. At some point, he also purchased a one-way ticket in cash from Accra to Lagos, Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa said.
After 13 days in Accra, he boarded Virgin Nigeria flight 804 from Accra to Lagos on December 24, which departed at 5:06 p.m. "He filled the immigration forms on the flight," he said. "I have all those on the form before me so I know he was on the flight." He said the Ghanaian officials were trying to discern why Mr. Abdulmutallab chose to return to Lagos rather than fly to the U.S. from Ghana.
"We have numerous flights to Amsterdam from here," said Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa. "There's even a direct flight to the USA from Delta Airlines. This has remained baffling, why he went to Lagos before beginning a new journey." Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa said that Ghanaian officials had tightened security since the incident and plan to install full-body scanners at Kotoka International Airport in Accra.