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Airline Passenger Who Helped Foil Terror Attack Speaks to VOA

Says still plans to fly, but will be 'even more vigilant'

Washington, D.C., January 8, 2010 – Alain Ghonda, a passenger on Northwest Flight 253, shared his personal account with the Voice of America (VOA) of how he and several others foiled the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day, 2009.

The majority of the flight was peaceful, Ghonda told VOA's Russian Service, until a loud cracking sound rang out.

"I was the first one to stand up. It was an explosion noise, some people were saying like a firecracker," Ghonda said. People stood up. When Ghonda saw smoke rising from a row of seats ahead of him, he said "I screamed 'There's fire! This is a terrorist!'"

Panic ensued as two other passengers jumped over their seats to put the fire out. As flight attendants sprayed the terror suspect with fire extinguishers, another passenger held him down. "They took him out of his seat, he had his pants half way down and I believe it was while he was mixing his materials to do the explosion," he said.

The entire incident lasted less than 10 minutes, said Ghonda.

He recalled seeing the suspect - 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab - before boarding the flight, which originated in Amsterdam.

"I saw him before going through security," which Ghonda says was not particularly tight. "I believe he used his cell phone, texting. There wasn't anything specific about him that would have prompted any attention," Ghonda told VOA.

After the plane landed, passengers waited for more than three hours while their luggage was inspected and interviews conducted.

"I'm going to fly still," Ghonda said. "But I'll be even more vigilant than I usually am. And I'm glad I usually don't sleep in the plane so this gives me a good reason not to sleep during the flight."

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. Government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,500 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 125 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages and are intended exclusively for audiences outside of the United States. VOA is the leading U.S. international broadcaster.

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