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Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on the runway after arriving at Detroit Metropolitan Airport from Amsterdam on Friday, Dec. 25, 2009. (AP Photo/J.P. Karas)

Posted: Friday, 25 December 2009 7:15PM

Passenger Tries To Blow Up Airliner

(CBS/AP) A Northwest Airlines passenger landing in Detroit on Friday tried to blow up the flight but the explosive device failed, two U.S. national security officials said.

The passenger, who was traveling on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam was being questioned Friday evening, according to one of the officials, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing.

The motive of the Christmas Day attack was not immediately clear.

"He appears to have had some kind of incendiary device he tried to ignite," said one of the U.S. officials.

A senior law enforcement source speaking to CBS News has identified the suspect as Nigerian national Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23.

As the plane was on final approach to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, the suspect lit and set off what were at first described as fireworks or firecrackers but may have been another type of explosive.

The explosive material was apparently taped to the man's leg and lit the lower part of his body. He was immediately subdued and restrained and was later transported to a hospital burn unit.

Two other people suffered minor injuries.

Upon landing, the plane was moved to a remote part of the Detroit airport and authorities at first tried to use a bomb-defusing robot to board the plane.

The suspect has told federal investigators that he was sent by al Qaeda. He claims he picked up the explosive material in Yemen and was instructed to set it off on board an airplane. Those claims could not immediately be verified.

The suspect was on a U.S. government watch list of people with suspected terrorist ties. He is still being questioned.

"This does not strike us as having the earmarks of any kind of well-planned or well-orchestrated attack," a senior security official told CBS News justice correspondent Bob Orr.

White House spokesman Bill Burton, who is with President Obama on vacation in Hawaii said that Mr. Obama was notified of the incident this morning and convened a secure conference call with John Brennan, his Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism Adviser, and Denis McDonough, NSS Chief of Staff.

"He asked to arrange a subsequent secure call and in that call instructed that all appropriate measures be taken to increase security for air travel," Burton said in a statement. "The President is actively monitoring the situation and receiving regular updates."

A senior administration official calls the incident "an attempted act of terrorism."

Delta Air Lines spokeswoman Susan Elliott had no details on the injuries. (Delta and Northwest began merging in 2008.)

One passenger from the flight was taken to the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, hospital spokeswoman Tracy Justice said. She didn't know the person's condition, or whether the person was a man or woman. She referred all inquiries to the FBI.

An FBI spokeswoman in Detroit said the incident is being investigated. It came just as the flight, an Airbus 330 carrying 278 passengers, was arriving in Detroit from Amsterdam.

The flight left Amsterdam's Schiphol International Airport at 8:45 a.m. local time Friday morning and arrived in Detroit a 12:01 p.m. CST.

Passenger Syed Jafri, a U.S. citizen who had flown from the United Arab Emirates, said the incident occurred during the plane's descent. Jafri said he was seated three rows behind the passenger and said he saw a glow, and noticed a smoke smell. Then, he said, "a young man behind me jumped on him."

"Next thing you know, there was a lot of panic," he said.

Rich Griffith, a passenger from Pontiac, said he was seated too far in the back to see what had happened. But he said he didn't mind being detained on the plane for several hours. "It's frustrating if you don't want to keep your country safe," he said. "We can't have what's going on everywhere else happening here."

J.P. Karas, 55, of Wyandotte, Mich., said he was driving down a road near the airport and saw a Delta jet at the end of the runway, surrounded by police cars, an ambulance, a bus and some TV trucks.

"I don't ever recall seeing a plane on that runway ever before and I pass by there frequently," he said.

Karas said it was difficult to tell what was going on, but it looked like the front wheel was off the runway.

The Homeland Security Department said passengers may see additional screening measures on domestic and international flights because of the incident.

"We encourage those with future travel plans to stay in touch with their airline and to visit for updates," the department said.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has been briefed on the incident and is closely monitoring the situation.

The department encouraged travelers to be observant and aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious behavior to law enforcement officials.

© MMIX, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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