CIA thwarts new al-Qaida underwear bomb plot

Posted May 07, 2012, at 4:23 p.m.
Last modified May 07, 2012, at 8:06 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The FBI is analyzing a sophisticated underwear bomb that U.S. officials believe was built by al-Qaida’s affiliate in Yemen in an effort to target Western aviation.

U.S. officials said Monday that there was no imminent threat to U.S. jetliners. But the explosive device, which the CIA obtained from another government, demonstrates al-Qaida’s continued interest in building a bomb that can pass through airport security and bring down a passenger jet, the officials said.

The FBI said in a statement that “the device is very similar to IEDs that have been used previously by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in attempted terrorist attacks, including against aircraft and for targeted assassinations.” An IED is an improvised explosive device.

“We have no specific, credible information regarding an active terrorist plot against the U.S. at this time, although we continue to monitor efforts by al-Qaida and its affiliates to carry out terrorist attacks, both in the homeland and abroad,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement. “Since this IED demonstrates our adversaries’ interest in targeting the aviation sector, DHS continues, at the direction of the president, to employ a risk-based, layered approach to ensure the security of the traveling public.”

In December 2009, a would-be suicide bomber aboard a Detroit-bound airliner attempted to detonate an explosive device in his underwear. The bomb failed to detonate, and officials later traced the device to the al-Qaida group in Yemen.

Despite the timing, U.S. officials said they had no direct evidence of a plot tied to the first anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden last week.

In a statement, the White House said President Barack Obama was first informed of the latest plot in April by his Homeland Security and counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan.

“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,” said Caitlin Hayden, deputy spokeswoman of the National Security Council. “The disruption of this IED plot underscores the necessity of remaining vigilant against terrorism here and abroad.”

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(c)2012 Tribune Co.

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