U.S. media reports say a man sent by al-Qaida's branch in Yemen to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner was actually a double agent who infiltrated the terror network and convinced the terrorists to trust him with a new bomb designed to pass through airport security.
Unidentified U.S. and foreign intelligence officials said Tuesday the secret operative was working for Saudi Arabia's intelligence service and the CIA. They say he posed as a would-be suicide bomber and volunteered for the mission that involved explosives concealed in his underwear. The operative was able to turn over his sophisticated explosive device to U.S. officials, who are analyzing the bomb at the FBI's laboratory in Quantico, Virginia.
They say the operative also obtained information that led to a successful airstrike Sunday against al-Qaida leader Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso in Yemen. Quso was wanted for his role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole warship off Yemen, which killed 17 U.S. sailors.
The informant's identity has not been disclosed. Unidentified officials say the operative spent weeks gaining the trust of members of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
Reports indicate that the U.S. administration had planned to keep the bomb operation secret but The Associated Press learned of it last week. The news organization delayed reporting the story at the request of the Obama administration.
U.S. officials have said the plot by al-Qaida's branch to put a suicide bomber on a U.S.-bound jet was detected in its earliest stages and that no U.S. airliner was ever at risk.
Authorities say the bomb was a redesign of an explosive underwear device intended to blow up a jet flying from Amsterdam to Detroit, Michigan on December 25, 2009.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the incident is a reminder that America and its allies are still targets of terrorist plots.