* Abdulmutallab met Awlaki in Yemen before bomb attempt
* Bomb, hidden in his underwear, failed to fully detonate
* Prosecutors urge maximum sentence of life in prison
By Jeremy Pelofsky
WASHINGTON, Feb 10 Al Qaeda leader Anwar
al-Awlaki personally directed and approved the attempted bombing
of a U.S. airliner which a Nigerian man tried to carry out on
Christmas Day in 2009, according to new details released by
federal prosecutors on Friday.
Awlaki, who was a leader of the militant group's affiliate
in Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), before he
was killed in a drone strike last year, directed Umar Farouk
Abdulmutallab to conduct a strike aboard an American airliner
over U.S. soil.
"Awlaki's last instructions to him were to wait until the
airplane was over the United States and then to take the plane
down," according to court papers. Awlaki left it up to
Abdulmutallab to pick the flight and date, the papers said.
Abdulmutallab, 25, is due to be sentenced Thursday in
Detroit and faces up to life in prison after pleading guilty to
charges he tried to down a Northwest Airlines jumbo jet
with 289 people aboard on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.
The bomb, hidden in his underwear, failed to fully detonate
and he was subdued. The incident led U.S. security officials to
quickly bolster airport security, deploying full-body scanners
to try to detect explosives hidden in clothing.
In October, Abdulmutallab pleaded guilty days after his
trial began, saying he had wanted to avenge the killing of
innocent Muslims by the United States.
In a sentencing memorandum filed in federal court in
Detroit, prosecutors urged a judge to sentence Abdulmutallab to
the maximum of life in a U.S. prison.
For the first time, prosecutors revealed new details of the
plot, including Abdulmutallab's close connections to the al
Qaeda leader, who has been linked to other plots against the
Abdulmutallab went to Yemen in August 2009 and sought out
Awlaki in mosques. He made contact, was taken to Awlaki's home
in the desert and agreed to carry out an attack, according to
the court papers.
He was then was sent to receive training from an al Qaeda
bombmaker, Ibrahim Al Asiri, in an AQAP camp where they
discussed the mission. Asiri delivered the underwear bomb to
Abdulmutallab and trained him on how to detonate it.
Awlaki helped Abdulmutallab write a martyrdom statement and
arranged for a "professional film crew" to film the five-minute
message, prosecutors said in the sentencing memorandum.
"Although Awlaki gave defendant operational flexibility,
Awlaki instructed defendant that the only requirements were that
the attack be on a U.S. airliner, and that the attack take place
over U.S. soil," the court papers said.
Prosecutors also asked permission to show at the sentencing
hearing on Thursday a video the FBI created which simulated the
bomb Abdulmutallab tried to detonate.
Awlaki, who was identified by U.S. intelligence as "chief of
external operations" for al Qaeda's Yemen branch and a Web-savvy
propagandist for the Islamist cause, was killed in an attack by
missiles fired from multiple CIA drones in a remote Yemeni town,
U.S. officials have said previously.
The U.S.-born cleric left for Yemen after the Sept. 11, 2001
attacks. Also killed in the drone strike was Samir Khan, another
American who turned to militancy and served as editor of
"Inspire," a glossy magazine used as a propaganda and
recruitment vehicle by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.