Airline attack suspect sought martyrdom

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A young Nigerian allegedly on a terrorist mission for al-Qaida prayed, washed and put on perfume moments before trying to detonate a bomb in his underwear to bring down an international jetliner on Christmas 2009, a prosecutor told jurors as the man's trial opened Tuesday.

Virtually everyone aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 had holiday plans, but Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab believed his calling was martyrdom, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel said.

In the plane's bathroom, "he was engaging in rituals. He was preparing to die and enter heaven," Tukel said. "He purified himself. He washed. He brushed his teeth. He put on perfume. He was praying and perfuming himself to get ready to die."

After returning to his seat, Abdulmutallab pushed a small plunger on the chemical bomb in his underwear, an action that produced a "pop," the prosecutor told jurors.

The bomb didn't work as planned but Abdulmutallab was engulfed in flames, said Tukel, who displayed the flight's seating chart on a screen to show jurors where things happened on the plane.

Opening statements began after an unexplained 70-minute recess requested by Abdulmutallab and his attorney, Anthony Chambers, shortly after they entered the courtroom.

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