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May 07, 2012

US Foils al-Qaida Airliner Bomb Plot

by Dan Robinson

THE WHITE HOUSE - The United States has broken up an al-Qaida plot to place a bomb aboard a U.S.-bound airliner.  

A Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) statement said close cooperation with overseas security and intelligence partners enabled the thwarting of the plot, which involved an improvised explosive device (IED).

Media reports quoted U.S. intelligence officials as saying the plot involved a re-design of the so-called underwear device used by a Nigerian man in a failed attempt to blow up a U.S. jetliner in Detroit on Christmas in 2009.

The FBI said the agency is conducting technical and forensics analysis, adding that initial tests indicated it was very similar to IEDs used previously by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to target aircraft and in assassinations.  

The statement said the device never presented a threat to public safety and the U.S. is working with international partners to address what it called concerns associated with the device.

A National Security Council statement said President Barack Obama was first informed about the plot in April by his counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, and has received regular updates and briefings.

NSC spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said while Mr. Obama was assured the device did not pose a threat to the public, he directed the Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement and intelligence agencies to take whatever steps necessary to guard against this type of attack.

The statement said disruption of "this IED plot underscores the necessity of remaining vigilant against terrorism here and abroad."

At the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made this brief statement during a news conference with the visiting Chinese defense minister. "What this incident makes clear is that this country has to continue to remain vigilant against those who would seek to attack this country, and we will do everything necessary to keep America safe," he said.

In the days before the first anniversary of the killing of Osama bin-Laden, the White House and government agencies issued a statement saying there was no knowledge of specific al-Qaida plots against the United States.

In a speech last month in Washington, counter-terrorism adviser Brennan said al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula continues to be the most active al-Qaida affiliate and continues to seek the opportunity to strike the United States.

The U.S. has stepped up drone operations in Yemen.  A missile strike there on Saturday killed a senior al-Qaida leader, Fahd al-Quso, who was wanted for the bombing of a U.S. warship in Aden nearly 12 years ago.