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Was Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab radicalized in London?

The religious background and motivations of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian national accused of trying to blow up Northwest Airlines flight 253, are still unclear. But experts say his time in London may have helped fuel a militant world view.

This photo released by the US Marshal's Service on Monday shows Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in Milan, Mich. Abdulmutallab, has been charged in federal court with trying to detonate an explosive device on a Dec. 25 flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

US Marshal's Service/AP

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For young Muslims especially, London is a city like no other. It is a mecca for jobs and education and provides freedom from the prying eyes of family back home. The grand metropolis also beckons as a bastion of religious freedom and as a refuge from corrupt home country politics.

And with roughly 600,000 Muslim residents hailing from all corners of the Islamic world, it's a place where virtually every flavor of Europe's fastest growing religion can be studied and discussed.

That was the world that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab – the young Nigerian accused of seeking to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas –immersed himself in as a student between 2005 and 2008, when the petri dish of political Islam in London was stirring strongly.

For at least a decade sub-cultures of radical thought that promote borderless Islam and an uncompromising return to Sharia law have flourished in Great Britain’s capital – despite some reportedly effective efforts to tamp down extremist views, and despite worries among moderate London Muslims about the trend.
“There are basically two meccas,” argues Egyptian-born Mamoun Fandy of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. “There’s a Mecca that Muslims should visit, and the mecca of jihad that is London.”


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