The young Mutallab has been a serious young man who led a privileged life as the son of a prominent banker, but became estranged from his family as an adult. Devoutly religious, he was nicknamed "The Pope" for his saintly aura and gave few clues in his youth that he would turn radical, friends and family said.
"In all the time I taught him we never had cross words," said Michael Rimmer, a Briton who taught history at the British International School in Lome, Togo. "Somewhere along the line he must have met some sort of fanatics, and they must have turned his mind."
Abdulmutallab has been charged with trying to destroy a Northwest flight on Christmas Day with 278 passengers and 11 crew members on board. The detonator on his explosive apparently malfunctioned and he was subdued by other passengers.
Through an official, Abdulmutallab's father "expressed deep shock and regret over his son's actions."
His family home sits in the city of Funtua, in the heart of Nigeria's Islamic culture. Religion figured into the family's life: His father, Alhaji Umar Mutallab, who had a successful career in commercial banking, also joined the board of an Islamic bank – one that avoids the kind of interest payments banned by the Quran.
The Mutallab's house is a large one, surrounded by a wall and a metal fence just off the main road running through the city, but stood empty.
The elder Mutallab had been estranged from his son for several months and alerted U.S. officials last month about the youth's growing hard-line Islamic religious beliefs.
Basiru Sani Hamza, 35, said Abdulmutallab was "very religious" and "very obedient" to his parents as a boy in the well-to-do banking family.
"I believe he must have been lured where he is schooling to carry out this attack," Hamza said. "Really, the boy has betrayed his father because he has been taking care of all their needs."
Rimmer, a teacher at his high school in West Africa, said Abdulmutallab had been well-respected.
"At one stage, his nickname was 'The Pope,'" Rimmer said from London in a telephone interview. "In one way it's totally unsuitable because he's Muslim, but he did have this saintly aura."
But Abdulmutallab also showed signs of inflexibility, Rimmer said.
In a discussion in 2001, Abdulmutallab was the only one to defend the actions of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Rimmer said. At the time, Rimmer thought the boy was just playing the devil's advocate.
He also noted that during a school trip to London, Abdulmutallab became upset when the teacher took students to a pub and said it wasn't right to be in a place where alcohol was served.
Rimmer also remembered the youngster choosing to give 50 pounds to an orphanage rather than spend it on souvenirs in London.
Rimmer described the institution – an elite college preparatory school, attended by children of diplomats and wealthy Africans – as "lovely, lovely environment" where Christians often joined in Islamic feasts and where some of the best Christmas carolers were Muslims.
Abdulmutallab showed no signs of intolerance toward other students, Rimmer said, explaining that "lots of his mates were Christians."
The Briton noted that he has not seen or heard from his former pupil since 2003 when he was still a teenager.
Abdulmutallab went on to study engineering and business finance at the University College London, where he graduated last year, the college confirmed.
Students at his prestigious university in London, where Abdulmutallab lived in a smart white stone apartment block in an exclusive area of central London, said Abdulmutallab showed no signs of radicalization and painted him as a lax student with deep religious views.
"We worked on projects together," Fabrizio Cavallo Marincola, a 22-year-old mechanical engineering student at University College, told The Independent newspaper. "He always did the bare minimum of work and would just show up to classes. When we were studying, he always would go off to pray.
"He was pretty quiet and didn't socialize much or have a girlfriend that I knew of. I didn't get to talk to him much on a personal level. I was really shocked when I saw the reports. You would never imagine him pulling off something like this."
The older Mutallab spoke with security agencies in the aftermath of the arrest of his son, family sources say. According to the family members, Mutallab has been uncomfortable with the boy's extreme religious views and had six months ago reported his activities to United States' Embassy, Abuja and Nigerian security agencies.
The older Mutallab was said to be devastated on hearing the news of Abdul Farouk's attempted bombing arrest. A source close to him said he was surprised that after his reports to the US authorities, the young man was allowed to travel to the United States. The family home of the Mutallabs in Central London, is currently being searched by men of the Metropolitan Police.
THISDAY newspaper in Nigeria revealed that Abdulfarouk Umar Muttalab,who is an engineering student at the University College, London, had been noted for his extreme views on religion since his secondary school days at the British International School, Lome, Togo. At the secondary school, he was known for preaching about Islam to his schoolmates and he was popularly called “Alfa”, a local coinage for Islamic scholar.
After his secondary school, the young man, family sources said went to University College London to study engineering and later relocated to Egypt, and then Dubai. While in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, he declared to his family members that he did not want to have anything to do with any of them again. His father, Muttalab is a regular visitor to the US where he visits for medical check up and holidays. He is expected to issue a statement later today. Muttalab is married to an Arab of Yemeni-descent.
Dr. Mutallab was born on December 15, 1939 in Katsina Town, Katsina State of Nigeria. He is a Fellow of both the Association of Chartered and Certified Accountants (FCCA) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (FCA).
Mutallab was appointed to the Board of First Bank in 1996 and became its Chairman in 1999. He attended Barewa College, Zaria, Achimota College, Accra, Ghana and the South West London College, London.
He started his working career in 1965 as a Management Accountant with Fuller Jenks Beecroft & Co in London.
He also served as Chief Accountant/Acting General Manager, Defence Industries Corporation in Kaduna. He was also the Financial Controller of the company.
He rose to become the General Manager, New Nigeria Development Company Limited (NNDC) from 1968 to 1975. In 1975, he was appointed as Federal Commissioner (i.e. Minister) for Economic Development & Reconstruction and was re-assigned to the Federal Ministry of Cooperatives & Supply in 1976.
He was a member, Federal Executive Council from 1976 to 1978. He left to serve as Executive Vice Chairman/Managing Director, United Bank for Africa (UBA) up till 1988.
Mutallab is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered and Certified Accountants (FCCA), Fellow Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (FCA), Fellow Institute of the International Bankers Association of the United States (FIBA) and Fellow Institute of Bankers of Nigeria.
He holds the Nigeria National Honour of the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) and the Italian National Honour of Commander of the Order of Merit. He was awarded a Honourary Doctorate Degree by the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
Mutallab also served on the boards of several companies such as Arewa Textiles Limited, NEPA, NACB, NCC, Nigeria Agip Oil, and the Cement Company of Northern Nigeria [CCNN].
He is currently Chairman of several companies, including Impresit Bakolori Plc, Incar Nigeria Plc and Spring Waters Nigeria Limited (SWAN). He is also Chairman, Business Support Group of the Vision 2020. (Daily Trust, Nigeria).
The terrorist son relocated to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates after earning his college degree. The father had reported his son as a security threat to both US and Nigerian security agencies several months ago and the US had him on a security list though he was not considered a serious risk and was not placed on a ‘no flight list.’
Early reports have linked him to Alqaeda but US security agents have cautioned against this claims, saying though he has terrorist tendencies, he is not known to be affiliated to any terror group.
Abdulmutallab is a polygamous family.
It has not been determined where or how Abdulmutallib picked up his extremist views, it is known that he has spent more years outside Nigeria than in it. He admitted being trained for a month as a suicide bomber in Yemen. Details about him remain sketchy as all websites or blogs with information about him have been blocked. Already, some sites that contained his image have been rigged with virus by unknown parties.