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Would-be plane bomber is sentenced to life in prison

DETROIT — The Nigerian man who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner with explosives concealed in his underwear on Christmas Day in 2009 was sentenced Thursday to life in prison by a federal judge who said his crime and subsequent lack of remorse demanded the maximum possible punishment.

The man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who pleaded guilty in October and admitted to working on behalf of al-Qaida, shouted, “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great,” five times during the sentencing hearing. He asserted that Muslims were “proud to kill in the name of God, and that is what God told us to do in the Quran.”

Five people on the flight, including a flight attendant who helped put out a midair fire that Abdulmutallab started with his explosives, spoke during the hearing about the nightmares and fear they had experienced since the episode.

Judge Nancy G. Edmunds of U.S. District Court ordered Abdulmutallab to serve the maximum sentence of four consecutive life sentences, plus an additional 50 years, on the charges, which included conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. Edmunds denied a motion by Abdulmutallab, who represented himself during much of the case, with the assistance of a standby lawyer, to declare life imprisonment as cruel and unusual punishment because his act did not kill or seriously injure anyone.

—Nick Bunkley, The New York Times

Santorum leads in Ohio
and gains across US

With the primary in Ohio three weeks away, Rick Santorum is now leading there, according to the newest Quinnipiac University poll.

Santorum has the support of 36 percent of likely Republican primary voters, trailed by Mitt Romney, with 29 percent. Newt Gingrich follows at 20 percent, and Ron Paul has nine percent.

And national polls, including a New York Times/CBS News survey, showed Santorum closing in on Romney’s overall lead. The two candidates are now battling for votes in Michigan, where Romney’s father was governor.

Michigan and Arizona hold primaries on Feb. 28, and Ohio and several other states follow on Super Tuesday, March 6.

In Ohio, Santorum’s backing comes from key groups of Republican voters, including white evangelical Christians, Tea Party supporters and conservatives. He is backed by four in ten voters from each of those groups.

Romney has the support of about a quarter of conservatives and evangelicals, but only one in five Tea Party supporters. Romney derives much of his support from moderates, voters over 65 and people with higher incomes.

—Allison Kopicki, The New York Times