According to authorities, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s radicalization began during his days in private school in Togo, and continued on during his time in London.
But the crucial point in his radicalization process occurred on his trip to Yemen earlier this year to study Arabic for six months at the Institute for the Arabic Language. Students there say he was obsessed with piety and was lonely, with no close friends.
His radicalization process was gathering intensity in London. Security sources say they knew he was connected to extremists in London who were under M15 surveillance for criminal activities, although his name was on no watch list. He was categorized as one of several thousand who come into contact with those under surveillance.
Authorities say he was trying to “begin a journey”, but nothing suggested he wanted to pursue violence. “Many young people start on the same route, but very few complete it. Very very large numbers of people come across the radar, very very few of them engage in terrorism.”
He attended the East London mosque in Whitechapel three times, although a spokesperson for the mosque denies knowledge of his attendance. “We don’t recognize him at all. The mosque has a large, loyal community and they are stunned and upset that one person can affect the perceptions of the community. The mosque has been kicking out radical preachers since 1990.”
Abdulmutallab organized a “War on Terror Week” conference in 2007 and gave a presentation called “Jihad vs. Terrorism,” where he discussed “the Islamic position with respect to jihad.” He gave no indication that he supported violent jihad.