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Qaeda group claims responsibility for failed attack on Detroit-bound plane

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-12-28

A regional wing of Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for a failed Christmas Day attack on a US-bound passenger plane. US President Barack Obama promised to hunt down the plotters.

AFP - President Barack Obama vowed Monday to hunt down extremists wherever they plot attacks against the United States as Al-Qaeda claimed it hatched the attempt to blow up a US-bound airliner on Christmas Day.

Obama pledged to "disrupt, to dismantle and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us -- whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia or anywhere where they are plotting attacks against the US homeland."

The president said he had ordered a probe to find out how 23-year-old suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab of Nigeria managed to board a Detroit-bound plane from Amsterdam with an explosive device.

"A full investigation has been launched into this attempted act of terrorism and we will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable," Obama said in his first public comments since the botched attack.

As millions of edgy air travelers endured stringent new security measures for flights around the globe, Obama was under massive pressure to ease frayed nerves and counter accusations his administration is soft on terror.

"This was a serious reminder of the dangers that we face and the nature of those who threaten our homeland," Obama said, three days after catastrophe was narrowly averted on Northwest Airlines Flight 253.

An Al-Qaeda affiliate in the Arabian peninsula claimed Monday it was behind the failed bombing and threatened new attacks on the West, US monitoring groups said.

It acknowledged in the Internet posting that a "technical fault" had caused the failure of the plot, SITE Intelligence said.

The statement, which was accompanied by a picture of suspected would-be bomber Abdulmutallab, boasted of the coup delivered by the "Nigerian brother" against Western airport security.

He "was able to breach all the modern and sophisticated technologies and checkpoints at the airports around the world," another US monitoring group, IntelCenter, said, quoting from the statement.

"His act has dealt a huge blow to the myth of American and global intelligence services and showed how fragile its structure is."

According to a charge sheet prepared by prosecutors, Abdulmutallab tried to bring down the Northwest Airlines Airbus A330 with 290 people on board using a device containing PETN, also known as pentaerythritol, a high explosive.

The explosive material was allegedly sewn into his underwear and officials believe tragedy was averted only because the makeshift detonator failed to work properly before fellow passengers jumped on the would-be bomber.

Obama has ordered a review of US no-fly lists after it emerged that Abdulmutallab was on a broad terrorist watch-list of 500,000 names but was still able to fly from Amsterdam to Detroit with a valid US visa.

He was added to the watch-list last month after his father told US embassy officials in Abuja that he was concerned by his son's increasing radicalism, but remained off a definitive no-fly list of roughly 4,000 names.

Obama's security chief demanded to know how Abdulmutallab retained his visa despite being on the watch-list, while Britain confirmed the 23-year-old had also been placed on its security blacklist in May this year.

"We all want to know the answer to that question," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told CNN, referring to why US authorities did not revoke the two-year visa issued in June 2008.

"Clearly this individual should not have been able to board this plane carrying that material," said Napolitano.

The suspect was moved from a hospital to a federal prison west of Detroit on Sunday. A hearing on Monday to address a request for a DNA sample was postponed and he is not due to appear in court until he is arraigned on January 8.

With renewed questions being asked about air security, travellers in the United States were told to check in four hours ahead of scheduled departure times, while bomb-sniffing dogs were visible at airports across the country.

Restrictions on passengers holding coats or blankets in their laps and entering restrooms for the last hour of their flights were later relaxed to be at the discretion of the individual air crews, CNN reported.

In Nigeria, Abdulmutallab's family promised their full cooperation with security agencies and said his recent behavior had been "completely out of character."

According to The New York Times, Abdulmutallab told FBI agents he was connected to the Al-Qaeda affiliate, which operates largely in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, by a radical Yemeni cleric whom he contacted online.

American law enforcement officials, quoted anonymously by US media, have said the suspect confessed once in custody to receiving specific training for the attack from an Al-Qaeda bombmaker in Yemen.

Date created : 2009-12-28

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