In late December 2009 the nation’s attention was riveted by two terrorist bombings. The one receiving the most comment was a complete failure. The other, garnering little notice, was spectacularly successful.
On Christmas Day, Nigerian national Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab attempted to explode a bomb secreted in his underpants aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit. The ignition system failed, and Mutallab was tackled by a fellow passenger and subdued until the flight landed.
Five days later on December 30, an al Qaeda double agent detonated a suicide bomb inside a CIA base camp in Afghanistan’s Khost province, killing eight top CIA and Jordanian agents, including a cousin of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, and wounding six others.
Mutallab’s story is one of complete failure, from all angles. Not only did Mutallab himself fail in his suicide mission, but several US governmental agencies also failed all along the line, in allowing him to be in a position to even attempt it.
The youngest of 16 siblings, Mutallab is the son of one of Africa’s richest men, Nigerian banker and former Nigeria Federal Commissioner for Economic Development, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab and his Yemeni second wife, Aisha. Mutallab Senior was instrumental in introducing Islamic banking practices, which follow Sharia law prohibiting the charging of interest, into Nigeria. Much like Osama bin Laden, Mutallab Junior was reared in an extremely wealthy, privileged, and devout household. In private school, Mutallab preached Islam to his classmates, and was known as “Alfa,” an honorific reserved for Muslim clerics, and “the Pope,” for his piety. In 2004 he spent a year in his mother’s home country of Yemen, attending the Institute for the Arabic Language in the capitol, Sana’a. In 2005 he matriculated to University College, London, where he was president of the Islamic Society. He earned a degree in mechanical engineering there in 2008.
After graduation, Mutallab, who had come briefly under the scrutiny of Britain’s MI5 intelligence services for radical affiliations, applied for and received a multiple-entry visa to the US, valid until June of 2010. He visited Houston briefly in August 2008 to attend an Islamic conference, after which he enrolled in a masters of international business degree program in Dubai. He had begun keeping more to himself, and wearing traditional Islamic garb. In May 2009 Mutallab attempted re-entry into Britain, ostensibly to attend a course at a fictitious school, but was denied by the UK Border Agency, and his name placed on a Home Office watch list which was not shared internationally.
In the summer of 2009 Mutallab petitioned his father for funds to attend further Arabic courses at the Yemeni language institute he had attended in 2004. The two-month course began in August, but within the month Mutallab had dropped out, remaining in Yemen after his visa expired in September. When he informed his father that he had decided not to pursue the MBA in Dubai, but instead to enroll in a seven-year course in Sharia law in Yemen, the latter threatened to cut off his support, to which the younger Mutallab replied that he was “already getting everything for free.” Mutallab last contacted his family in October, stating, “I’ve found a new religion, the real Islam. …You should just forget about me, I’m never coming back. …Forgive me for any wrongdoing, I am no longer your child.”
On November 19, 2009, Mutallab senior approached two CIA officers in Abuja, Nigeria, with the concern that his son may have become radicalized, could pose a danger to the US, and might be in Yemen. Mutallab’s name was added to the 500,000+ Terrorist Identities list composed by the US National Counterterrorism Center. It was not added to the FBI’s 400,000 name Terrorist Screening list, from which the No-Fly list is derived. His visa was not revoked, despite the fact that his name had already crossed several intelligence desks as a potential danger due to probable connections with the terrorist organization al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen. Mutallab had also been linked with radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, former imam to several 9/11 hijackers, who was also in contact with Major Nidal Hassan, perpetrator of the Fort Hood, Texas shootings, just two weeks before Mutallab’s father reported him. Mutallab had met al-Awlaki in London during his university studies there, and subsequently during his time in Yemen, though this was not known until after the abortive attack.
Mutallab left Yemen on December 7 for Ethiopia, then jetted to Ghana and Lagos, and finally to Amsterdam on December 24, from where he caught the Northwest Airlines flight he then attempted to destroy, having bought his ticket earlier, in Ghana. He paid cash and checked no baggage, and did not even carry a coat for his trip to frigid Michigan. During the last hour of the flight, Mutallab spent about 20 minutes in the bathroom, afterward covering himself with a blanket at his seat. Other passengers heard strange popping sounds, then noticed a strong, acrid smell and saw Mutallab’s leg and the plane wall on fire.
Fellow passenger Jasper Schuringa, a Dutch national, tackled Mutallab and subdued him while flight attendants used fire extinguishers to douse the flames. An explosive device consisting of a six-inch packet of the plastic powder explosive PETN and an acid syringe detonator were found, the explosives sewn into his underpants (a circumstance which has caused some pundit wags to dub him the “Fruit of Kaboom” bomber). Upon questioning by authorities, Mutallab admitted that he had obtained the explosives and instructions on their use from al Qaeda operatives in Yemen. He remains in custody at the Federal Correctional Institution in Milan, Michigan, awaiting trial for attempted murder, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, and attempting to blow up a US civilian plane. On January 8, 2010, Mutallab pled not guilty to all charges.
Just five days later, eight CIA and Jordanian intelligence officers were killed in a suicide bombing inside the CIA base camp in Khost province, eastern Afghanistan. The bomber, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, was a doctor and al Qaeda sympathizer whom Jordanian authorities had arrested more than a year before. They believed al-Balawi had been “turned,” that is, recruited for their side, and sent him on a mission to infiltrate al Qaeda and insinuate himself with the organization’s number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, a fellow doctor. Al-Balawi provided reliable and useful information leading to the capture or termination of several lower-level al Qaeda operatives. When he informed his handler that he had important details about al-Zawahiri’s whereabouts, his bona fides were not questioned. The information was deemed so important that several top CIA officers flew into the Forward Operating Base from Kabul. Al-Balawi was not screened or searched when he entered the base wearing an explosive belt. The attack, which killed the bureau chief and other high level officials and debriefers whose loss will likely set back intelligence operations in the region for months if not years, has been described as “the deadliest single attack on US intelligence personnel in the eight-year-long war and one of the deadliest in the agency’s history,” and “an audacious blow to intelligence operatives at the vanguard of US counterterrorism operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, killing officials whose job involves plotting strikes against the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other extremist groups.”
Born 22 December 1986, Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab’s birth chart reveals a tendency to religious zealotry and an attraction for radical, violence-imbued philosophies. The Sun at 0 Capricorn conjoins Neptune at 5 Capricorn, exactly on the Black Hole there, and these square the super-massive Black Hole center of Galaxy M-87 at 1 Libra, the largest anomaly of its type of which we are aware, holding more than a hundred subsidiary galaxies in its gravitational thrall. It exerts a huge pull on Mutallab’s psyche, warping its potential and evoking extreme manifestations. The Sun/Neptune conjunction depicts one who has difficulty assimilating reality, or distinguishing it from fantasy, and often indicates extreme religious zealotry, fanaticism, and a desire for martyrdom or self-sacrifice. There is also a tendency toward isolation, alienation and disaffection, all these exacerbated by the strong Black Hole contacts, which promote living in an alternate reality of one’s own creation, and often result in lives which are extremely transformative and impactful, for good or ill.
Further influencing Mutallab’s religious/philosophic outlook is a quintile (72 degrees) from Neptune to the Jupiter/Mars conjunction at 16 and 18 Pisces. This pairing in and of itself suggests an attraction for philosophies or belief systems that elevate and promote violence, and its square to a pair of Black Holes at 18 and 19 Sagittarius does nothing to lessen its impact. Jupiter/Black Hole natives are subject to radicalization and total immersion in philosophic viewpoints which others find unorthodox, bizarre, extreme, or in some way unacceptable, and with Mars allied here as well there is a strong likelihood that these may be anger-based or excessively aggressive. Adding fuel to the religious fire is a trine from Jupiter/Mars to TNO Ixion at 21 Scorpio, named for the first murderer in Greek mythology. This free-flowing, simpatico aspect between two planets representing a potentially aggressive religious philosophy, and one representing murder, makes for an easy, almost logical leap from the martyrdom of dying for one’s religion, encouraged by Sun/Neptune, to the act of killing for it.
A Saturn/Mercury conjunction also lies in square to Jupiter/Mars from 14 and 18 Sagittarius, indicating Mutallab’s student status (Mercury) and his heightened focus on the legalistic, restrictive, letter-of-the-law version of Islam, as denoted by his intense interest in Sharia. Mutallab expressed his desires to a fellow student at the Arabic Language Institute in Sana’a, to whom he confided that “his greatest wish was for Sharia and Islam to be the rule of law across the world.” Mercury in square also depicts the attempt to interrupt transportation services. Also involved is natal Uranus, which at 23 Sagittarius conjoins Mercury, signaling “air travel” (Uranus/Mercury) as the disrupted transportation of choice. Uranus’ conjunction with the newsy, informational Pulsar at 24 Sagittarius and the Galactic Center at 26 Sagittarius suggests a newsworthy act receiving media attention (Pulsar) and global notice (Galactic Center). Uranus’ square to natal Mars unleashes further potential for violence; in particular, explosive reactions such as the planned bombing indicate.
Saturn/Mars contacts often promote repressed sexuality and frustration of sexual fulfillment, and this can be a dangerous combination in young men. Taken in tandem with Jupiter, this indicates an inclination for religious philosophies which penalize or demonize sexual expression. Internet postings made by Mutallab in 2005 track this inner conflict as he faced loneliness and a lack of a natural sexual outlet due to his devotion to Islamic principles: “As i get lonely, the natural sexual drive awakens and i struggle to control it, sometimes leading to minor sinful activities like not lowering the gaze [in the presence of unveiled women]. And this problem makes me want to get married to avoid getting aroused. …The hair of a woman can easily arouse a man. The Prophet advised young men to fast if they can’t get married but it has not been helping me much and I seriously don’t want to wait for years before I get married. But i am only 18 … It would be difficult for me to get married due to social norms of getting to the late 20’s when one has a degree, a job, a house, etc before getting married. So usually my fa[n]tasies are about islamic stuff. The bad part of it is sometimes the fantasies are a bit worldly rather than concentrating in the hereafter. …Alright, i wont go into too much details about m[y] fantasy, but basically they are jihad fantisies [sic]. I imagine how the great jihad will take place, how the muslims will win insha Allah and rule the whole world, and establish the greatest empire once again!!!”
This pattern becomes a T-Square with the inclusion of Chiron at 17 Gemini, in square to Jupiter/Mars and opposed Saturn. Chiron’s presence here indicates deep wounds of a psycho-sexual nature, and a capacity for wounding others due to unresolved issues and conflicts based in repressive religious philosophies, which assume an overwhelming importance in the life due to the Black Hole’s action. Interestingly, asteroid Askalaphus ties to this pattern as well, from 18 Gemini retrograde. Askalaphus is named for the mythic Greek denizen of Hades who informed on Persephone’s ingestion of six pomegranate seeds during her enforced sojourn in the Underworld, thus committing her to spend half the year there forevermore. In this case, with Askalaphus opposed Saturn, it is Mutallab’s father (Saturn) who performed the tale-bearing function (Askalaphus), when he notified the CIA of the potential danger represented by his son.
Other minor celestials sharpen the picture. Asteroid America, exactly conjunct a Black Hole at 6 Scorpio, also conjoins natal Pluto, which at 9 Scorpio is exactly squared the 9 Leo Black Hole. This combination spells rather literally “Death to America!” and shows a desire to reframe reality (the Black Hole) to fit this worldview. America/Pluto also opposes the volatile, violent Maser at 8 Taurus, a further indication of a potentially explosive manifestation of this conjunction. A pairing of asteroids Icarus and Apophis at 24 and 25 Capricorn suggests a rash, reckless (Icarus) act of pure evil (Apophis, named for the ancient Egyptian deity personifying same), and forms a T-Square with the Black Hole at 24 Aries and asteroid Jaspers at 24 Libra (named for the Dutch film-maker Jasper Schuringa, who helped to foil Mutallab’s bombing attempt). Finally, TNO Eris at 15 Aries retrograde, named for the Greek goddess of strife and discord, is exactly squared asteroid Tantalus at 15 Capricorn, named for another Greek mythic character noted for a particularly heinous act of murder, once again linking fractious, disruptive energies with violence and death.
When Mutallab attempted his suicide mission on Christmas Day, 2009, the Sun, fresh from its Solar Return to its natal degree, was exactly conjunct transit Pluto at 3 Capricorn, which had stationed exactly atop Mutallab’s natal 0 Capricorn Sun the previous September, the period during which his increasing isolation mutated into radicalized Islamofascist affiliations. Sun/Pluto here are also activating the natal Sun/Neptune conjunction, evoking the self-styled martyr for the faith latent in that combination. Asteroids Icarus and Apophis are traveling together, as in the birth chart, and at 6 and 9 Capricorn have recently conjoined the Sun/Neptune pairing, inciting reckless, evil action in a fanatical cause.
Mercury at 21 Capricorn and asteroid America at 22 Capricorn are both highlighting the natal Icarus/Apophis conjunction at 24/25 Capricorn, about to be hit strongly in three weeks by the Solar Eclipse of January 15 at 25 Capricorn. Throughout 2008 and early 2009, as Mutallab retreated further into his radicalized faith, transit Uranus had been criss-crossing the natal Jupiter/Mars conjunction, and formed its first exact opposition to transit Saturn from 18 Pisces to Virgo, with Uranus exactly conjunct natal Mars. The pressure of this radical, revolutionary Uranian energy reinforcing Mutallab’s natural attraction for aggressive, violent philosophies, coupled with the double hit from both natal and transit Saturn on those pent-up sexual frustrations, pushed Mutallab from proselytizing devotee to homicidal acolyte.
Transit TNO Ixion at 15 Sagittarius has been playing tag with natal Saturn at 14 Sagittarius for years, applying pressure to bring concrete manifestation (Saturn) to Mutallab’s murderous fantasies (Ixion), while transit asteroid Tantalus at 22 Sagittarius is egging on heinous acts from the restless, agitated and extremes-oriented Uranus at 23 Sagittarius. Asteroid Niger, for Nigeria, lies close by at 24 Sagittarius, exactly on the Pulsar, propelling Mutallab’s country of origin into the forefront of the news that day. Transit Saturn at 4 Libra is forming a T-Square with natal Sun/Neptune/Black Hole and transit Pluto in early Capricorn, and the Black Hole at 4 Cancer, again urging serious action in the material plane, bringing to physical fruition the latent zealotry and self-sacrifice aspects of the natal Sun/Neptune conjunction. Asteroid Jaspers at 8 Scorpio conjoins natal Pluto/America/Black Hole, applying the dampening influence that helped to frustrate Mutallab’s murderous intent.
When the bomb blast ripped through the CIA base camp in Afghanistan on December 30, 2009, the CIA’s natal chart was celestially compromised as well. The CIA was “born” on 18 September 1947 with the passage of the National Security Act. The December bombing came just one day before the Lunar Eclipse exactly squared its natal Mercury at 10 Libra, conjoined natal Neptune at 9 Libra. An informant (Mercury) had deceived (Neptune) the agency into accepting him as genuine, with devastating consequences (Eclipse). Transit Mars at 18 Leo retrograde was hovering conjoined both natal Pluto on the violent, volatile Maser at 14 Leo, and natal Saturn at 17 Leo, the combination spelling an explosive (Maser), deadly (Pluto) attack (Mars) on CIA senior officers (Saturn).
Transit Uranus at 23 Pisces had been retrograding over the natal placement of TNO Chaos (disorder, disruption) at 24 Pisces, as well as squaring its natal position at 26 Gemini, opposed the CIA’s natal Sun at 24 Virgo, and in trine to the CIA’s natal Mars (attacks, violence, death) at 22 Cancer. Transit Mercury, representing the false informant, was also opposing natal Mars and exactly conjunct the reality-warping Black Hole at 19 Capricorn, an alternate dimension from which the apparently loyal and trusted informant morphed into a deadly foe, with no prior warning. The transit Sun at 9 Capricorn was exactly squared natal Neptune at 9 Libra conjoined natal Mercury at 10 Libra, reiterating the theme of false information and deceptive double agents.
All told, a bad end to a bad year for US intelligence services, and a striking example of the varied manifestations celestial energies can evoke when they encounter the human psyche.