Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab who is thought to have been a student in the UK is accused of trying to blow up a flight to Detroit.
Sources say a man burnt his leg trying to ignite explosives on the jet, which had 278 passengers and 11 crew aboard, but nobody else was seriously hurt.
In custody, the Nigerian suspect said he had been acting on behalf of al-Qaeda, a police source said.
The police conducted a search of a London flat as part of the enquiry into the failed bombing attempt. Abdulmutallab was believed to have been a mechanical engineering student at UCL between September 2005 and June 2008 but a UCL spokesman has been unable to confirm whether it is the same individual as the man detained in the US.
Most intriguingly a Nigerian banker Alhaji Umaru Mutallab has said his 23-year-old son may be the man connected with the failed incident.
Mr Mutallab, the former minister and chairman of First Bank in Nigeria said his son left London where he was a student to travel “I believe he might have been to Yemen, but we are investigating to determine that.”