Nigerian juror dismissed from airline attack trial

October 6, 2011 - 11:50 AM
Airline Attack

FILE - This December 2009 file photo released by the U.S. Marshal's Service shows Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in Milan, Mich. The stakes are significant as the government prosecutes Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab for the first terrorist attack in the U.S. during the Obama administration, a failed suicide strike that forced the rapid deployment of full-body scanners at American airports and revealed the rise of a new al-Qaida group. Jury selection in his trial begins Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011. (AP Photo/U.S. Marshals Service, File)

DETROIT (AP) — A juror from Nigeria was dismissed Thursday shortly after being selected for the trial of a Nigerian man accused of trying to bring down an international flight with a bomb in his underwear.

About a half-hour after 12 jurors and four alternates were selected for Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's trial, U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds told attorneys, "we have a problem with a juror."

Edmunds then dismissed a woman identified a day earlier as being from Abdulmutallab's home country. The judge did not elaborate or explain the dismissal in court.

Abdulmutallab, a well-educated 24-year-old from an upper-class family, was directed by a radical Islamic cleric and wanted to become a martyr when he boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 253 in Amsterdam on Christmas 2009, according to the government.

Lawyers had not objected to keeping the Nigerian woman in the jury pool when she was questioned in court Wednesday. She had said on a jury questionnaire that she was "embarrassed" at the time of the attack.

"We all feel it as a community," she said in court.

She will be now be replaced by one of the four alternates and a new alternate will be chosen. Opening statements in the trial are scheduled to begin Tuesday.

Abdulmutallab has pleaded not guilty to eight charges, including conspiracy to commit terrorism and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. The government says he wanted to blow up the plane by detonating chemicals in his underwear, just seven minutes before the jet carrying 279 passengers and a crew of 11 was to land at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

But the bomb didn't work, and passengers assisted by crew members saw flames and pounced on Abdulmutallab.

The failed suicide attack, the first act of terrorism in the U.S. during the Obama administration, revealed the rise of a dangerous al-Qaida affiliate and the growing influence of American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed by a U.S. military strike in Yemen last week.