The CIA foiled a plot by al-Qaida’s affiliate in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner using a bomb with a sophisticated new design around the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, The Huff Post reports citing U.S. officials.
Terrorists reportedly planned to use a device similar to the one that failed to explode on a plane to Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009 but the new bomb was much more sophisticated.
The FBI is currently examining the bomb to see whether it could have passed through airport security and brought down an airplane. The device did not contain metal, so it probably could have passed through an airport metal detector. But it is still not clear whether new body scanners used in many airports would have detected it.
“As a result of close co-operation with our security and intelligence partners overseas, an improvised explosive device (IED) designed to carry out a terrorist attack has been seized abroad,” the FBI said in a statement.
“Initial exploitation indicates that the device is very similar to IEDs that have been used previously by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in attempted terrorist attacks, including against aircraft and for targeted assassinations,” it added.
US defence secretary Leon Panetta confirmed the operation last night, saying the US must “continue to remain vigilant against those that would seek to attack this country,” tells The Telegraph.
“What this incident makes clear is that this country has to continue to remain vigilant against those that would seek to attack this country. And we will do everything necessary to keep America safe,” Defence Secretary told reporters on Monday.
According to U.S. officials, president Obama was first informed of the latest plot in April, raising questions such as why the US government had previously said there were no “specific or credible” terror threats linked to the May 2 anniversary of the al-Qaeda leader’s death.
For instance, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on April 26 that “we have no credible information that terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda, are plotting attacks in the U.S. to coincide with the anniversary of bin Laden’s death.”
Carney said al-Qaeda affiliates “remain intent on conducting attacks in the homeland, possibly to avenge the death of bin Laden, but not necessarily tied to the anniversary,” according to San Francisco Chronicle.
White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden admitted that President Barack Obama learned about the plot in April and was assured the device posed no threat to the public.
“While the president was assured that 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,” Hayden said in an e-mailed statement.
“The president thanks all intelligence and counterterrorism professionals involved for their outstanding work and for serving with the extraordinary skill and commitment that their enormous responsibilities demand,” Hayden said.
While the would-be suicide bomber had not yet selected a target and there was no imminent threat of attack, the plot served as a reminder of al-Qaeda’s ambitions to strike against US civilians.
After the initial analysis FBI technicians suggested it may have been the work of Ibrahim al-Asiri, al-Qaeda’s “master” bomb maker.
Al-Asiri constructed the first underwear bomb and two others that al-Qaida built into printer cartridges and shipped to the U.S. on cargo planes in 2010.
Carney said al-Qaeda affiliates “remain intent on conducting attacks in the homeland, possibly to avenge the death of bin Laden, but not necessarily tied to the anniversary,” according to