King: Airline bombing suspect had 'significant terrorist connections'

The suspect in an alleged attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas was on a list "indicating significant terrorist connections," Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said Friday.

King, the top Republican member of the House Homeland Security Committee, described the suspect in the attempted bombing of a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit as a 23-year-old Nigerian national with potential ties to al-Qaeda.

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"He is a 23 year old Nigerian who is also - it's been confirmed to me - while he was not on a no fly list, his name was on a list for having terrorist connections," King said during an interview Christmas evening on CNN.

News broke Friday afternoon that a Nigerian man had attempted to light some sort of explosive device on the flight as it was approaching Detroit in an event described later by U.S. officials as an attempted terrorist attack.

The man failed in his attempt, and was reportedly subdued by the passengers and crew of the flight.

A senior Obama administration official told ABC News Christmas evening that the Northwest airlines incident "was an attempted act of terrorism. We're taking increased steps to mitigate any threats."

The official said that earlier reports that the explosives lit were firecrackers were not true, but did not comment further on the nature of the devices. The official added that the administration as for now does not believe that the attack was part of a broader effort.

King provided the earliest confirmation that the suspect, whose name King said he had, might have been affiliated with terrorists.

"His name was in a database indicating significant terrorist connections," King said.

King said the suspect boarded a flight from Nigeria and traveled to Amsterdam, where he transferred onto a flight headed toward Detroit.

The New York lawmaker, a top lawmaker on Homeland Security, suggested that the U.S. had maintained previous concerns about Nigerian air security, prompting the U.S. to provide some security assistance to that government.

"There's a real worry about terrorist activity in Nigeria, so much so that last year the American government gave body detection technology to Nigeria for their airports," King said. "Their level of security, we felt was not comprable to others."

Jordan Fabian contributed to this report