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Nigeria says plane bomber began journey in Ghana

LAGOS (Reuters) - A Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a U.S. passenger jet on Christmas Day began his journey in Ghana and spent less than 30 minutes in Nigeria’s Lagos airport, the Nigerian government said on Thursday.

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Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has been charged with trying to blow up Northwest Airlines flight 253 as it approached Detroit from Amsterdam on December 25 with almost 300 people on board.

“Further investigations by the Nigerian government have revealed that Abdulmutallab spent less than 30 minutes in the Nigerian airport before boarding the flight to Amsterdam,” Information Minister Dora Akunyili said in a statement.

“He arrived in Nigeria on 24 December from Ghana via Virgin Nigeria. His passport was scanned on entry into Nigeria at 20:08 and was scanned in at check-in for departure to Amsterdam at 20:35,” she said.

Although Abdulmutallab was known to have bought his ticket in Ghana’s capital Accra, he had been thought to have started his journey on December 24 in Lagos, where he boarded a KLM flight to Amsterdam before transiting to the Detroit flight.

Nigerian and Dutch officials have said Abdulmutallab, 23, went through normal security screenings in both Lagos and Amsterdam’s Schiphol airports.

He did not check in any baggage but was carrying a shoulder bag when he checked in for the KLM flight in Lagos, according to the head of Nigeria’s Civil Aviation Authority. He went through a metal detector and his bag was x-rayed before he went through a second screening at the boarding gate.

The United States asked airports and airlines around the world to tighten security after the foiled attack, which raised questions about how Abdulmutallab had been able to get explosive materials onto the plane despite higher security worldwide since the September 11 hijacked airline attacks in 2001.

Investigators are trying to establish where he got the explosive materials used in the foiled attack.

Nigerian and Dutch officials have said they will start using full-body scanners, which use radio waves to generate a picture of the body that can see through clothing and spot hidden weapons or packages.

Abdulmutallab is the son of a respected former banker who was educated at a boarding school in Togo before studying engineering at University College London and studying for a masters in Dubai. He also made trips to Yemen as a student.

A regional wing of al Qaeda has said it was behind the failed Christmas Day bombing, which was meant to avenge U.S. attacks on the group in Yemen, according to a web statement. (Editing by Alison Williams)