Feds: 'Underwear bomber,' O'Hare suspect share guru

February 15, 2012 10:00:00 PM PST
There's a common denominator between a terror suspect arrested at O'Hare International Airport last month and a convicted terrorist sentenced Thursday in Detroit to life in prison.

The ''underwear bomber,'' Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, tried to blow up a jetliner landing in Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. When he was handed multiple life sentences, he announced in a Detroit courtroom that one day al-Qaeda would be victorious.

Even as Abdulmutallab goes away, al-Qaeda continues to work toward victory, according to federal authorities, through operatives such as the suspected terrorist arrested in Chicago a few weeks ago.

The explosion that federal investigators say would have occurred onboard that Christmas Day flight two years ago likely would have killed everyone on the plane. But it was a failed attempt by the Nigerian national who had explosives packed in his underwear when the bomb was a dud.

"The only thing that prevented this defendant from being successful that day was his own bad luck. If he had not been unlucky that day, 289 people would have lost their lives, countless loved ones would've been impacted and don't forget about the people who live in Woodhaven who would have had a plane falling on their homes," said U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade.

"One moment we thought we were all going to die and we were in tears, but thank God we were saved. The plane landed safely, so today is a day to serve the justice," said passenger Shama Chopra.

Last month at O'Hare, it was a refugee from Uzbekistan arrested while boarding a plane for Turkey. Authorities say Jamshid Muhtorov had left his family in Colorado and was preparing a suicide terror strike in Turkey.

According to federal counter-terrorism agents, Muhtorov had something in common with the ''underwear bomber.'' They shared the same al-Qaeda guru, Anwar al-Awlaki, one of the world's most feared and wanted terrorists. Al-Awlaki is considered the inspiration for countless terror suspects around the world.

In the case of both the Detroit ''underwear bomber'' and the O'Hare arrestee, judges in both cases were concerned that al-Awlaki instilled an insatiable desire to kill Westerners through suicide attacks. In his detention order, Judge Michael Hegarty said Muhtorov's "understanding of Islam is of the more radical version," supporting '"jihad" or holy war, that the defendant's "teachers" in his faith are Anwar al-Awlaki and Osama bin Laden, and the "defendant is willing to sacrifice his own life."

The judge denied bail for 35-year-old Muhtorov, saying he was a danger to the community and a flight risk, as he was on a one-way ticket to Turkey when arrested at O'Hare.

Muhtorov is being held in Denver, Colorado, where his wife and children live. They and his lawyer say he is innocent and was just going on that trip to visit relatives. Before leaving, authorities say he told his young daughter that if she was a good Muslim girl, he would see her in heaven.