U.S. authorities are confident a suspected al-Qaida suicide bomber is no longer a threat to the American people.
The Obama administration’s top counter-terrorism advisor, John Brennan, spoke Tuesday on the U.S. television network ABC, a day after U.S. officials said al-Qaida’s branch in Yemen intended to put a suicide bomber on a U.S.-bound jet with explosives concealed in the person’s underwear.
U.S. officials say the plot was detected in its early stages and that no U.S. airliner was ever at risk. But it is not clear what happened to the suspected suicide bomber.
U.S. experts say the bomb was a redesign of an explosive underwear device intended to blow up a jet flying from Amsterdam to the U.S. city of Detroit on Christmas, 2009.
Authorities suspect the latest bomb may have been the work of Saudi bomb-maker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, who is linked to the first attempted underwear attack.
Al-Asiri has ties to al-Qaida’s branch in Yemen, known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
In 2009, a Nigerian man tried to detonate a bomb hidden in his underwear, but the device failed. The FBI is studying the new device to determine whether it would have been detected by airport security systems.
On Monday, the White House National Security Council said U.S. President Barack Obama was informed about the plot in April and has received regular updates. It said the president was assured the device did not pose a threat to the public.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the incident is a reminder that America and its allies are still targets of terrorist plots.
“But the plot itself indicated that the terrorists keep trying to devise more and more perverse and terrible ways to kill innocent people and it is a reminder why we have to remain vigilant at home and abroad in protecting our nation and in protecting friendly nations and peoples like India and others.”
William McCantis, a terrorism analyst with the Center for Naval Analysis tells VOA this latest operation underscores the importance of intelligence in war on terrorism.
“We had the bomb before it was detonated, so we’re getting better at disrupting these plots. On the other hand, it’s worrisome that al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is able to build these sorts of bombs still, after a year or more of increasing drone strikes. Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is definitely the greatest threat the United States faces from al-Qaida, because, one, it controls territory, and it’s able to move freely through a large swath of territories. So it’s able to gather resources, it has places it can train and it provides safe haven, perhaps it’s gotten control of some munitions when it overthrows various military groups, and every time they innovate, we have to innovate as well. There’s not gonna be a perfect security system in place to stop these plots, because our enemies will always innovate around them, so we have to keep changing.”
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is also suspected of forming a plot in 2010 blow up U.S.-bound cargo planes with explosives hidden in printer ink cartridges.
The Associated Press has reported the would-be attacker is based in Yemen, and the plot was to be carried out around the one-year anniversary of the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden. It also said the would-be attacker had not picked a target or bought a plane ticket.