by Jon Gambrell
Associated Press Writer
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP)—The Nigerian man accused of trying to bring down a U.S. airliner cut off contact with his relatives and disappeared from their lives until they awoke to news of the attempted Christmas Day attack, his family said Monday.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s father talked to Nigerian security agencies two months ago and a month later to foreign security agencies about his concerns that his son had disappeared and ceased contact with the family, the family said in a statement. U.S. authorities said that in November, Abdulmutallab’s father visited the U.S. embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, to discuss his concerns about his son’s religious beliefs.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab
Abdulmutallab told U.S. officials who arrested him on the Detroit-bound airliner that he had sought extremist training at an Islamist hotbed in Yemen.
The family said the father had gone to authorities to ask them to bring his 23-year-old son home. “We provided them with all the information required of us to enable them do this,” the family statement said, without elaborating.
Adding another piece to the puzzle of what Abdulmutallab had been doing over recent months, a university campus in Dubai said the young man had been attending the school from January through the middle of this year.
University of Wollongong in Dubai Vice President Raymi van der Spek told The Associated Press Dec. 28 that Abdulmutallab took classes for “about seven months” and is no longer a student at the branch of an Australian public university.
On Dec. 24, Nigerian officials say Abdulmutallab re-entered Nigeria for only one day to board a flight in Lagos, where he walked through airport security carrying only a shoulder bag, with explosives hidden on his body.
Abdulmutallab is being held in a federal prison in Michigan after suffering burns in the botched bombing. Authorities in the U.S. have said he claimed to be carrying out an attack on orders from al-Qaida.
Abdulmutallab’s father, prominent banker Umaru Abdulmutallab, previously said he thought his son traveled to Yemen before the attack.
A Nigerian police spokesman declined to comment, while officials with Nigeria’s State Security Service could not be reached for comment Monday. A spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, said he had no information on the father’s efforts.
A U.S. official in Washington said the father’s concerns were shared among those in the embassy, including liaison personnel from other agencies based there, such as the FBI. The alert was then relayed to Washington and again shared among agencies such as the State, Justice and Homeland Security departments, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the investigation.
Abdulmutallab attended a British preparatory school in Togo and graduated from University College London before apparently severing ties with his family.
“From very early childhood, Farouk, to the best of parental monitoring, had never shown any attitude, conduct or association that would give concern,” the family’s statement read.
The family promised to cooperate with Nigerian and U.S. authorities as investigations continue.
“We, along with the whole world, are thankful to almighty God that there were no lives lost in the incident,” the statement read. “May God continue to protect us all, amen.”
(Associated Press writer Adam Schreck contributed to this report from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.)