US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Sunday that so far officials do not believe that the Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airplane was part of a larger plot.
AFP - US President Barack Obama's top security official said Sunday there was "no indication" an accused Nigerian terrorist was acting as part of a larger plot when he tried to blow up a US-bound flight on Christmas Day.
"Right now we have no indication it's part of anything larger, but obviously the investigation continues," US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told CNN, referring to the thwarted attack on a Northwest jet by suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, as the plane approached the city of Detroit, Michigan.
"This was one individual literally of thousands that fly and thousands of flights every year. And he was stopped before any damage could be done," she said, praising how "effectively" passengers, crew and the global aviation sector responded.
Napolitano also warned that it would be "inappropriate to speculate" that Al-Qaeda trained Abdulmutallab and sent him on a suicide mission to blow up the Amsterdam-Detroit flight with 290 people aboard.
"Right now that is part of the criminal justice investigation that is ongoing, and I think it would be inappropriate to speculate as to whether or not he has such ties," Napolitano told CNN, referring to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who has been charged with trying to blow up a Northwest flight on Christmas Day as it approached Detroit.
Unnamed administration officials told US media in the aftermath of the thwarted attack that Abdulmutallab had confessed to traveling to Yemen and receiving training by Al-Qaeda there.
And on Sunday, his relatives in Nigeria described him to AFP as a devout Muslim who had gone to Yemen and had sought to break contact with his family.
"We became worried when in August Farouk called and said he was no longer interested in his post-graduate studies anymore, saying he would be staying in Yemen to pursue another course he did not disclose," said one of his relatives who gave his name only as Sani.
Amid mounting calls by US Republican and independent lawmakers for investigations into potential security lapses which allowed any person on a US security watchlist to retain his US visa and board a plane with only normal security screening, Napolitano insisted appropriate measures were followed in the aftermath of the attack.
"What we did is, (we) dealt with the incident, put out additional security measures both at airports here and abroad, and made sure that the flights that were in the air were indeed safe," she told CNN.
While she acknowledged that Abdulmutallab was on a low-level watchlist," "the issue was, was there enough information to move him to the more specific lists which would require additional examination, or indeed being on a no-fly status?
"To date, it does not appear that there was any such information to move him from that tide list, which was shared and everybody had it, to a more specific list that would require different types of screening at the airport."
She said moving a person from the low-level list, which the White House reports has some 550,000 names, to the no-fly list of some 4,000 names requires acquisition of "specific... derogatory information" on an individual.
The State Department says Abdulmutallab was issued a two-year US visa in June 2008. Dutch security officials said he traveled from Nigeria to Amsterdam and then on to Detroit with a valid US visa.
Date created : 2009-12-27