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Somali tried to board plane with chemicals, syringe

  • Man tried to board airliner in Mogadishu with chemicals used to make explosive device, says African Union
  • Suspect had bag containing 600 grams of ammonium nitrate and half a liter of sulfuric acid in plastic bottle
  • Details resemble those of Christmas Day attempt to blow up Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit
  • Somalia

(CNN) -- A man tried to board a commercial airliner in the Somali capital of Mogadishu last month with chemicals that authorities believe could have been used as an explosive device, an African Union official said Wednesday.

The suspect, Abdi Hassan Abdi, tried to board a Daallo Airlines flight with a plastic bag containing 600 grams of ammonium nitrate and half a liter of concentrated sulfuric acid in a plastic bottle, according to Wafula Waminyinyi, the deputy special representative for the African Union Mission for Somalia.

Waminyinyi said that Abdi also had approximately 5 milliliters of an unidentified liquid in a syringe that he tried to carry on board the flight, which was bound first for the northern Somali city of Hargeisa, then Djibouti, and then Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. He said that the African Union believes the chemicals could have caused an explosion.

The details bear resemblance to those from the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a Northwest flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit, Michigan.

A preliminary FBI analysis found that the device suspect Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab allegedly carried aboard contained pentaerythritol tetranitrate, an explosive also known as PETN. The amount of explosive was sufficient to blow a hole in the aircraft, a source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN Sunday.

Part of the explosive device was sewn into the suspect's underwear. And FBI agents recovered what appear to be the remnants of a syringe near the seat.

Because the syringe was destroyed, investigators are having trouble determining the accelerant the suspect tried to use to light the explosive.

AbdulMutallab, of Nigeria, is in custody in the United States and charged with attempting to destroy an aircraft.

In the November 11 incident in Somalia, African Union peacekeeping forces arrested Abdi after they searched him and discovered the chemicals, Waminyinyi said.

He had drawn suspicion because he was the last one to board the flight, Waminyinyi said.

No further details were immediately available.

Abdi was handed over to the Somali National Security Agency, and Waminyinyi believes he remains in custody.

CNN's Christine Theodorou contributed to this report.