A terrorist who tried to blow up a plane with a bomb hidden in his underpants on Christmas Day is suing the US Government.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has been in jail since his failed attack on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit in 2009.

The device burned his groin but failed to explode, saving the lives of the other 289 people aboard. The bomber was acting as part of a plot devised by an Al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen.

But the 30-year-old Muslim filed a lawsuit with a Colorado federal court this week in which he claims his constitutional rights have been violated by the US Justice Department.

Abdulmutallab pleaded guilty in 2012 and was sent to a maximum-security ADX federal prison in Colorado for life, but alleges he has been subject to degrading treatment over the last four years. The ADX is the highest-security prison in the country.

His suit claims his rights have been violated because the prison has held him in solitary confinement, restricted his communication with relatives and force-feeds him when he goes on a hunger strike to protest.

The petition complains that guards have placed him under "special administrative measures" in a single cell, severely limiting his ability to communicate with people in the outside world for national-security reasons.

It alleges that during prayers guards allow white supremacist into his area to "curse, yell, scream, and say things that are religiously insulting and offensive to Muslims".

Abdulmutallab said that he has been on a number of hunger strikes to protest his conditions but this is always ended by prison guards force-feeding him a liquid nutritional supplement by inserting a tube into his stomach. The suit adds this is done in an "excessive" and painful way.

Gail Johnson, an attorney for Abdulmutallab, told the New York Times: "Prisoners retain fundamental constitutional rights to communicate with others and have family relationships free from undue interference by the government.

"The restrictions imposed on our client are excessive and unnecessary, and therefore we seek the intervention of the federal court."