Home inContext Underwear Bomber Sentenced to Prison for Life

Underwear Bomber Sentenced to Prison for Life

Samara Greenberg

A U.S. federal judge on Thursday sentenced Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, better known as the underwear bomber, to life in prison for attempting to blow up an airplane en route to Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009 with explosives sewn into his underwear. Abdulmutallab, who four months ago pleaded guilty to all charges related to the bombing attempt, called his day of sentencing “a day of victory,” stating that “Mujahideen are proud to kill in the name of God” and that acts like his will continue until “the righteous servants of Allah inherit the world.”

During the trial, passengers who were on the plane with Abdulmutallab spoke of the event, and prosecutors showed a video demonstrating the power of the explosive material he was carrying. During the video, Abdulmutallab twice shouted “Allahu akbar,” which means God is great, and throughout the trial he never showed remorse for his actions. “In contrast, he sees that mission as divinely inspired and a continuing mission,” the judge stated.

A courtroom sketch of Abdulmutallab being sentenced to life in prison, Feb. 16, 2012.

The story of how Abdulmutallab ended up on that plane with explosives was uncovered in court filings earlier this month. According to the documents, Abdulmutallab contacted the late radical American cleric of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Anwar al-Awlaki, and spent three days at his house discussing martyrdom and jihad. After being accepted for a “martyrdom mission,” Awlaki introduced Abdulmutallab to a top AQAP bomb maker and approved a proposal to blow up a plane, stipulating that the attack be on an American airliner and over American soil.

In telling the story, the court filings also detail that Awlaki transitioned from a propagandist to an “operational” terrorist, which apparently led to the Obama administration’s officially unacknowledged — yet highly controversial — decision to kill Awlaki in a drone strike last September without a trial.

Thursday was a day of victory, and not for Abdulmutallab or al-Qaeda. It was a day of victory for Americans and freedom, as the U.S. successfully put away a dangerous man interested only in killing innocent civilians in the name of his radical beliefs.