Independent probe into UCL’s ‘suicide bomber’

Review will examine whether Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was radicalised during his time at Gower Street. John Morgan reports

January 26, 2010

A review of the time spent at University College London by a man accused of trying to blow up a US passenger jet will examine whether the institution’s Islamic Society contributes to the radicalisation of students.

On 25 January, UCL announced the terms of reference for an independent review of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s time as a student at the university.

The review will be chaired by Dame Fiona Caldicott, principal of Somerville College, Oxford, and pro vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford.

UCL says in a press statement: “The review will examine all aspects of Mr Abdulmutallab’s time at UCL, including his period as president of the student Islamic Society, and explore how far there were at that time – and/or today – conditions at UCL that might contribute to the radicalisation of students.”

On a Christmas Day flight to Detroit with 280 people on board, Nigerian-born Mr Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to detonate a bomb concealed in his underwear.

He studied for an engineering with business finance degree at UCL between September 2005 and June 2008, and was president of its Islamic Society between 2006 and 2007.

The review will also “examine the extent to which UCL has properly discharged its legal obligations to provide a platform for visiting speakers so as to secure freedom of speech on campus within the law, and ask what lessons there are to be learnt for the future,” the statement says.

Malcolm Grant, president and provost of UCL, said that British universities have a legal duty to guarantee freedom of speech on campus within the law, a responsibility introduced by the Conservatives in 1986.

But this “clearly does not include incitement that could lead to terrorism and murder”, he said.

He added: “The full facts of the matter are still under exhaustive inquiry by the police and the security services, including the question as to whether the radicalisation of Mr Abdulmutallab occurred during or as a consequence of his experience at UCL.

“We are setting up a full independent inquiry into what transpired while he was here and his association with the student Islamic Society and their activities. The panel’s report will be published, and we will act on whatever recommendations it makes.”

UCL said the full membership of the review will be announced shortly, with its first meeting taking place next month.

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