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Fear and heroism aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 after attempted bombing

A Nigerian man, claiming to be linked to al-Qaeda, allegedly tried to set off an incendiary device aboard a trans-Atlantic airplane on Christmas Day as it descended toward Detroit's airport. The White House called it an attempted act of terrorism.

Schuringa, on his way to Miami for vacation, leaped from the other side of the plane toward the fire as it spread from Abdulmutallab's pants to pillows on the floor. He said he reacted without thinking, fearful that the fire would cause an explosion that would bring down the plane and nearly 300 passengers and crew members.

As other passengers shouted for water, Schuringa pulled the melted plastic syringe from Abdulmutallab, shook it and threw it to the floor, the FBI said in an affidavit. Flight attendant Dionne Ransom-Monroe asked the suspect what was in his pocket, the FBI said, and he replied, "Explosive device."

The fire out, Schuringa marched Abdulmutallab to the front of the plane, helped by a flight attendant. They stripped off some of his clothes, searched him for weapons and handcuffed him, Schuringa said on CNN, explaining that the suspect seemed almost in a trance. Abdulmutallab said nothing and did not resist, he said.

"He looked like a normal guy," Schuringa said. "It's just hard to believe he was actually trying to blow up this plane."

Saigal, 63, said Schuringa "was holding him from the back, with a strong grip."

"When he went back to his seat, we all clapped," Saigal said of Schuringa.

Passengers and crew members worked to restore calm as the jet sped toward Detroit. Syed Jafry, an engineering consultant from Ohio who watched from Row 16, said the captain told passengers over the intercom: "There was an incident, and everything is under control. It is over. Fasten your seat belts. We are about to land."

As investigators explore how Abdulmutallab allegedly smuggled power and chemicals aboard the flight, Saigal and Keepman voiced distinctly different views of security in Amsterdam, the airliner's last stop before reaching Detroit.

"They're very thorough," Saigal said. "Always in Amsterdam, you go through people questioning you . . . and they put your hand baggage, your purse -- not your shoes -- through security again."

Keepman, however, said security procedures in Amsterdam seemed less rigorous than the measures he had faced at the Detroit airport on his outbound flight.

"I have to be honest, it was lax compared to here," said Keepman, who co-owns a transportation logistics company. "They push you through quite quickly, especially on international flights, because there are so many people to get through."

Keepman was not impressed with the questioning session.

"They ask the questions," Keepman said. "But the person's going to look you right in the eye and lie to you: 'Are you carrying something that could explode on the plane?' 'Certainly not, sir.' "

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