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Airplane bomb suspect pleads not guilty

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AbdulMutallab 'not guilty' plea
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: AbdulMutallab says he is on painkillers but understands charges
  • Indictment charges him with attempted use of weapon of mass destruction
  • AbdulMutallab also accused of attempted murder of other 289 people aboard U.S.-bound flight
  • He faces life in prison if convicted

(CNN) -- Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the man charged with trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines plane on December 25, pleaded not guilty Friday to six federal charges.

Asked by Magistrate Judge Mark Randon whether he was taking any medication, he replied that he was taking painkillers but that he understood the six charges he faced.

His lawyer, chief federal defender Miriam L. Siefer, entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf.

Throught the hearing, which lasted less than 10 minutes, security was tight. At least three dogs were inside the courtroom, and security guards were stationed at the doors. Members of the media had to wait in line outside the courtroom until 9 a.m. before passes were distributed allowing them entry. Anyone who wanted to leave the courtroom had to ask a security guard for an access card and then display it before being allowed to re-enter.

The court hearing came a day after President Obama released a report on the incident that said officials had "sufficient information" to have foiled the failed attack that but a variety of errors kept investigators from uncovering the plot.

AbdulMutallab faces a federal indictment issued Wednesday, including an attempt to murder the other 289 people aboard.

The seven-page indictment charges AbdulMutallab with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction; attempted murder within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States; willful attempt to destroy and wreck an aircraft within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States; willfully placing a destructive device in, upon and in proximity to an aircraft within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States; and two counts of possession of a firearm/destructive in furtherance of a crime of violence.

Read the indictment (PDF)

If convicted, the 23-year-old Nigerian national faces a sentence of life in prison.

Wearing a white T-shirt, too-long khaki pants that were rolled up several times at the ankles and blue sneakers, AbdulMutallab national walked slowly into the federal courtroom, ankles shackled and in apparent pain after having suffered second- and third-degree burns in the flight.

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Among Friday's courthouse audience was Hebbe Aref, who witnessed the event from six rows ahead as a passenger on the same flight.

"When I saw him on the plane, he was very blank. He didn't move. He didn't struggle," Aref said. "He spoke in court today; he didn't say anything on the plane."

Asked how seeing him again affected her, she said, "I felt something sort of in my stomach and in my heart. It a little bit brought back the feeling that I felt on the 25th."

Asked why she had attended the courtroom appearance, the hijab-wearing lawyer said, "I've been to proceedings before, and I just wanted to see one that affected me personally and affected the country. It's a big event."

The indictment said AbdulMutallab boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 253 in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on December 25, carrying a bomb concealed in his clothing and designed to be detonated "at a time of his choosing."

Authorities say the bomb components included Pentaerythritol (also known as PETN, a high explosive), as well as Triacetone Triperoxide (also known as TATP, a high explosive) and other ingredients.

The indictment said that, just before the jet landed at Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Michigan, "AbdulMutallab detonated the bomb, causing a fire on board flight 253." The device failed to fully detonate, instead setting off a fire at the man's seat.

He was subdued and restrained by the passengers and flight crew. The airplane landed shortly thereafter, and he was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers.

CNN's Deb Feyerick and LaNeice Collins contributed to this story from Detroit.

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