FBI experts are examining the bomb intended for use in an al-Qaida plot aimed at destroying a U.S.-bound passenger jet.
U.S. government officials announced Monday that the al-Qaida branch in Yemen intended to put a suicide bomber aboard a U.S.-bound jet with explosives concealed in the individual’s underwear. The plot was detected and the bomb seized before any plane was at risk.
Officials say the bomb was a redesign of an explosive device that was intended to blow up an airplane bound for Detroit from Amsterdam on Christmas Day 2009. A Nigerian man tried to detonate the 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.
The White House National Security Council said in a statement Monday that U.S. President Barack Obama was first informed about the plot in April and has received regular updates. It said the president was assured that the device did not pose a threat to the public.
During a press conference in New Delhi Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the incident serves as 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,” Clinton said.
William McCantis, a terrorism analyst with the Center for Naval Analysis based in Arlington, Virginia said 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,” he explained. “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,” McCantis added, “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.
U.S. officials say the newly foiled plot bears the hallmarks of the top bomb maker of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Ibrahim al-Asiri, who is suspected in the 2009 and 2010 attempted attacks.
The Associated Press says 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 says the would-be attacker had not picked a target or bought a plane ticket.