DETROIT -- A passenger on a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight tried to detonate an explosive device that was strapped to his leg and later told investigators that he was trying to blow up the plane and had affiliations with al Qaeda, according to a senior U.S. official.
The man, who has not been publicly identified by officials, told investigators that he was given the device by Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen, where he was also given instructions on how to detonate it, the official said.
"This guy claims he is tied to al Qaeda, specifically in Yemen," the official said. "He claims he was on orders from al Qaeda in Yemen. Who knows if that's true."
Bill Burton, a White House spokesman, said President Barack Obama, who is vacationing in Hawaii, was notified of the incident after 9 a.m. local time, and held two secure conference calls with his national security team to discuss the incident, but that his schedule had not changed.
"The president is actively monitoring the situation and receiving regular updates," Mr. Burton said.
The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that airline passengers should expect to see additional screening measures put in place on both domestic and international flights.
An FBI spokeswoman, Denise Ballew, would only say that the Detroit field office is investigating the incident and would release more information "when it is appropriate."
The explosive, which was apparently carried onto the flight from its originating airport in Amsterdam, was originally believed to be a small firecracker, but the U.S. official said the device was "more complicated than gunpowder firecracker" and caught fire as the man tried to set it off.
One person was taken to the University of Michigan Medical Center and was still hospitalized Friday evening. "All I know is it was one person treated from the incident," said U of M Health System spokeswoman Tracy Justice. "Everything else is being handled by the FBI."
Shortly after the plane landed around 11:50 a.m. Detroit time, the Transportation Security Administration put out a statement indicating that "out of an abundance of caution" the jet's passengers were going through a special security screening and the luggage in the hold also was being re-examined.
TSA and FBI officials were interviewing passengers, even as the plane sat at a remote corner of the airport surrounded by a phalanx of law-enforcement and emergency vehicles...
It is now officially being called an act of terrorism. This passenger account comes from the LATimes:
Passenger Syed Jafri, a U.S. citizen who had flown from the United Arab Emirates, said the incident occurred during the plane's descent, according to the Associated Press. Jafri said he was seated three rows behind the passenger and said he saw a glow and smelled smoke. Then, he said, "a young man behind me jumped on him."
"Next thing you know, there was a lot of panic," he said.
One would imagine other passengers joined in to subdue him.