LAGOS, Nigeria - As a member of an uppercrust Nigerian family, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab received the best schooling, from the elite British International School, in West Africa, to the vaunted University College, in London. But the education he wanted was of a different sort: Nigerian officials say that his interest in extremist Islam prompted his father to warn U.S. authorities. As Abdulmutallab was being escorted in handcuffs off the Detroit-bound airliner that officials say he attempted to blow up on Christmas Day, he told U.S. officials that he had sought an extremist education at an Islamist hotbed in Yemen.
A portrait emerged yesterday of a serious young man who led a privileged life as the son of a prominent banker, but became estranged from his family as an adult. Devoutly religious, he was nicknamed "The Pope" and gave few clues in his youth that he would turn radical, friends and family said.
Abdulmutallab has been charged with trying to destroy a Northwest flight on Christmas Day with 278 passengers and 11 crew members on board. Through an official, Abdulmutallab's father "expressed deep shock and regret over his son's actions."
His family home is in the city of Funtua (above), in the heart of Nigeria's Islamic culture. Religion figured in the family's life: His father, Alhaji Umar Mutallab, who had a successful career in commercial banking, also joined the board of an Islamic bank - one that avoids the kind of interest payments banned by the Quran. Mutallab was working with the FBI and was not expected to grant media interviews, Information Minister Dora Akunyili said. The elder Mutallab was "a responsible and respected Nigerian, with a true Nigerian spirit," she said. He had been estranged from his son for several months and alerted U.S. officials last month about the youth's growing hard-line Islamic religious beliefs.