Key dates surrounding the Christmas Day attack

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A look at key events surrounding the attempted Christmas Day attack on a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner. President Barack Obama announced steps Thursday aimed at avoiding the security lapses that allowed the alleged attacker, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, on board with explosives.


2004 to 2005:

—Abdulmutallab is in Yemen for a year, learning Arabic at the Sana’a Institute of Arabic Languages.



—Abdulmutallab graduates from the British School of Lome in Togo.

—Begins attending the University College London.



—Abdulmutallab graduates from University College London in June.

—U.S. Embassy in London grants Abdulmutallab a multiple-entry tourist visa valid until June 12, 2010.



January to about July:

—Abdulmutallab attends the University of Wollongong in Dubai.


—Britain refuses to grant Abdulmutallab a student visa because the school on his application was not a government-approved institution.

August to early December:

—Abdulmutallab visits Yemen after receiving a visa to study Arabic at a school in Sana’a, according to the Yemeni Foreign Ministry. He spends at least part of the time studying Arabic, investigators say.


—Abdulmutallab’s father goes to Nigerian authorities to express concerns about his son.

—Most of the fragmentary intelligence that Obama says should have been pieced together is gathered from October to late December.

Nov. 18 or 19:

—Abdulmutallab’s father goes to the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, to express concern that his son was in Yemen and had fallen under the influence of extremists.

Nov. 20:

—The embassy in Abuja sends a “VISAS VIPER” cable with the information from Abdulmutallab’s father to all U.S. diplomatic missions and the State Department in Washington, where it also was shared with the interagency National Counterterrorism Center for review.

—Abdulmutallab’s name is entered into the National Counterterrorism Center’s Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) database based on information from his father.

—The FBI and Department of Homeland Security issue an intelligence note about the threat picture for the holiday season. Officials say they have no specific information about attack plans by al-Qaida or other terrorist groups.

—At some point, a misspelling of Abdulmutallab’s name leads the State Department to believe he does not have a valid visa.

Dec. 16:

—Abdulmutallab’s round-trip plane ticket is bought in Accra, Ghana, for $2,831 in cash, presumably by Abdulmutallab himself, according to Nigerian officials. The Ghana KLM office shows the ticket was bought at the Accra International Airport.

Dec. 23:

—In an assessment to law enforcement officials across the country, the FBI and Homeland Security Department say they have no specific credible intelligence indicating there are plans from al-Qaida or any other terrorist groups to attack the U.S. during the holiday season. The officials warn that al-Qaida and other terror groups “continue to seek innovative ways to conduct attacks and circumvent security procedures.”

Dec. 24:

—Abdulmutallab re-enters Nigeria for one day to board a flight from Lagos’ Murtala Muhammed International Airport to Detroit, via Amsterdam. He draws no attention to himself, and checks in for the flight about two hours before takeoff carrying only a shoulder bag.

—According to Obama, Abdulmutallab is required to show his documents, including a valid U.S. visa, at the Amsterdam airport; his carry-on bag is X-rayed and he passes through a metal detector, which would not detect his type of explosive. Screening technologies that might have detected such explosives are in use at the airport but not at the checkpoints he passes through.

—U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials screen Abdulmutallab against a terrorist watch list before he boards the flight, but no alerts are raised. He is screened against a different list while in flight. During the second check, officials see the information about his father’s warnings and flag Abdulmutallab for extra screening upon landing.

Dec. 25:

—Abdulmutallab is accused of trying to bring down Northwest Airlines Flight 253 as it approaches Detroit. Passengers hear a pop, see smoke and rush Abdulmutallab and take him to first class where he is searched for explosives. He is silent and does not resist. The plane, carrying nearly 300 people, lands safely. Abdulmutallab is taken to the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor for treatment of burns.

Dec. 26:

—Abdulmutallab appears before a federal judge at the medical center and is told he is charged with trying to blow up the Northwest Airlines plane. Asked by the judge if he understands the charges against him, Abdulmutallab responds in English: “Yes, I do.”

Dec. 27:

—Abdulmutallab is transferred to a federal prison in Milan, Mich.

—Obama orders separate reviews of the U.S. terrorist watch list system and of air travel screening procedures.

Dec. 28:

—Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula claims responsibility for the failed bombing, saying the attack was retaliation for a U.S. operation against the group in Yemen. The claim of responsibility was dated Dec. 26, but was posted on a Web site two days later.

Dec. 31:

—Preliminary findings from the Obama-ordered reviews are due to the administration.

Jan. 5:

—Obama tells the public that U.S. intelligence analysts had enough information to keep Abdulmutallab off the flight “but failed to connect those dots.” He also reviews the situation with 20 of his highest-level officials and scolds them for “a screw-up that could have been disastrous.”

—State Department says it has revoked Abdulmutallab’s U.S. visa.

Jan. 6:

—Federal grand jury in Detroit formally charges Abdulmutallab on six counts, including attempted murder and attempted use of a weapon for mass destruction.

Jan. 7:

—White House releases summary of its account of how Abdulmutallab slipped through security. Obama announces there will be faster distribution and analysis of intelligence reports, new rules for terrorist watch lists, and enhanced screening technology at airports.

Jan. 8:

—Abdulmutallab is scheduled to appear in Detroit federal court for arraignment.