DETROIT — A Nigerian man pleaded guilty Wednesday to trying to blow up an international flight for al-Qaida with a bomb in his underwear, taking a federal court in Detroit by surprise on the second day of his trial.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab 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 murder.
“Are you therefore pleading guilty freely and voluntarily?” Edmunds asked.
“That’s right, yes,” Abdulmutallab replied.
Edmunds reviewed the charges and possible penalties with Abdulmutallab before he entered his pleas, including that he faces a sentence of up to life in prison.
He’s accused of trying to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 with a bomb in his underwear on Christmas 2009. The bomb didn’t work, and passengers jumped on Abdulmutallab when they saw smoke and 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.