Report: U.S. Learned of Airline Bomb Suspect's Extremist Ties While He Was in the Air

U.S. border officials learned of intelligence linking the man suspected of attempting to blow up a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines plane to extremists while he was en route from Amsterdam, the Los Angeles Times reported late Wednesday.

Authorities planned to question the Nigerian when the plane landed, the paper said, showing officials came close to uncovering the Christmas Day plot, despite failures at other levels.

Senior law enforcement officials told the Times if intelligence officials had learned of the information earlier, Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab could have been interrogated and searched before he got on the flight from Amsterdam. But it was unclear if the intelligence was strong enough to cause Dutch officials to prevent the man from boarding the plane.

"The people in Detroit were prepared to look at him in secondary inspection," a senior law enforcement official was quoted as saying. "The decision had been made. The ... database had picked up the State Department concern about this guy, that this guy may have been involved with extremist elements in Yemen. ...They could have made a decision on whether to stop him from getting on the plane."

A federal database noted State Department concern that Abdulmutallab may have been involved with extremism in Yemen.

The Department of Homeland Security had no immediate comment on the Times report Wednesday night.

Authorities say Abdulmutallab, 23, was traveling to Detroit from Amsterdam when he tried to blow up the plane carrying nearly 300 people by injecting chemicals into a package of explosives concealed in his underwear.

Abdulmutallab faces up to life in prison if convicted of attempting to use a bomb on the plane. He is being held at a federal prison in Milan, Mich.

The failed attack caused popping sounds and flames that passengers and crew rushed to extinguish.

A grand jury indicted the Nigerian man on Wednesday on charges of attempting to blow up the plane on Christmas Day by trying to use a weapon of mass destruction.

More from the Los Angeles Times

The Associated Press contributed to this report.