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Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab: British police look into London connection

The Nigerian man arrested Friday for trying to destroy Northwest Airlines Flight 253, Umar Farouk Abdul Mattallab, is being investigated by London authorities. He reportedly had an apartment there, and had been an engineering student at University College London.

By JENNIFER QUINNThe Associated Press / December 26, 2009

Police enter the basement of a building where police are searching in Mansfield Street in London, Saturday. The search was reportedly in connection with the attempted terrorist attack on a Northwestern Airline flight as it prepared to land in Detroit on Friday.

Akira Suemori/AP



Police searched a London apartment Saturday as authorities probed the background of a Nigerian man who attempted to down a Northwest Airlines jetliner. A prestigious London university said Saturday that a man with a similar name had studied mechanical engineering at the school for three years.

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University College London said a man called Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was enrolled at the school from September 2005 to June 2008. In Nigeria, the father of Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab — identified by U.S. officials as the man who set a fire on a Detroit-bound jetliner — said his son had been a student in London, but had left the city to travel.

Mutallab is accused of trying to destroy Northwest Airlines Flight 253, which was minutes away from touching down in Detroit after leaving Amsterdam earlier on Christmas Day.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson called the thwarted attack a "potentially serious security threat" and said British investigators were working with their American counterparts. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he had spoken with the head of London's Metropolitan Police about the incident.

University College London, which was ranked as the world's No. 4 university earlier this year by U.S. News and World Report, said that while they could say that a student with a very similar name had attended the school, "it must be stressed that the university has no evidence that this is the same person currently being referred to in the media."

Officers from the Metropolitan Police — the force is involved in most of the major terrorism investigations in Britain — went in and out of an imposing white stone apartment block in a well-to-do area of central London. A police spokeswoman said the force was carrying out searches in connection with the incident in Detroit, but would not say if the searches at the building were connected.

The seven-story building is a stone's throw from London's busy Oxford Street shopping area. It was adorned with ornate carvings on its facade and antique lamps flank an imposing front door.

Officers searching the residence wore regular uniforms. On past searches of terror suspects' houses, officers have worn protective clothing.

At London's Heathrow Airport — one of Europe's busiest — security measures for travelers to the U.S. were tightened at the request of American authorities.