U.S. President Barack Obama says those responsible for the attempted Christmas Day attack on an American airliner will be held to account. In his first public comments on the incident, Mr. Obama also outlined additional steps to improve air safety.
The president said many questions surround the attempted attack and that the search for answers is well underway. "A full investigation has been launched into this attempted act of terrorism. And we will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable," he said.
A Nigerian man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, has been charged with trying to destroy the aircraft by igniting explosives as it was landing. The president noted that if he had succeeded, nearly 300 Americans on board the plane would have died. "This was a serious reminder of the dangers that we face and the nature of those who threaten our homeland," he said.
The president's demeanor was serious as he faced reporters in Hawaii, where he is vacationing with his family. He talked about the steps that have been taken to improve airline safety since the attempted attack. And he sought to reassure the American people, saying that the government is doing all it can to keep the public safe and secure.
He said extra law enforcement officers will be put on many flights, and that the passenger screening process is being reviewed - including revising the computerized lists used to detect high risk individuals.
The president added that he is conferring with his national security team. He spoke of their determination to deal with the terrorist threat. "We will continue to use every element of our national power to disrupt, to dismantle and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us - whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia or anywhere where they are plotting attacks against the U.S. homeland," he said.
President Obama urged Americans to be vigilant but confident as they travel during the current holiday season and throughout the coming year.
He noted that the would-be bomber on the Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit was thwarted by others on board the plane. He called their actions quick and heroic.