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Authorities probe possible Al Qaeda ties to foiled plane attack
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Authorities probe possible Al Qaeda ties to foiled plane attack
A Nigerian charged with trying to blow up Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day tells authorities he acted alone. Had it succeeded, the explosion could have killed all 290 on board, officials say.
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Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on the runway after arriving at Detroit Metropolitan Airport from Amsterdam. Northwest and Delta have merged. (J.P. Karas / Associated Press)



By Josh Meyer

December 27, 2009

Reporting from Washington - U.S. counter-terrorism officials on Saturday were looking at possible connections between Al Qaeda-linked militants in Yemen and a 23-year-old Nigerian man charged with attempting to destroy a Northwest Airlines plane on its final approach to Detroit Metropolitan airport.

According to a criminal complaint and FBI affidavit, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab carried a destructive device aboard Flight 253 on Christmas Day in what authorities said was an attempted terrorist attack that could have killed all 290 people aboard.

In filing charges Saturday, the Justice Department alleged that Abdulmutallab had a device containing the explosive PETN, or pentaerythritol tetranitrate, attached to his body. The court documents also said that FBI agents had recovered what appeared to be the remnants of a syringe, believed to be part of the device, from the vicinity of the suspect's seat.

"Had this alleged plot to destroy an airplane been successful, scores of innocent people would have been killed or injured," Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. said in announcing the charges. "We will continue to investigate this matter vigorously, and we will use all measures available to our government to ensure that anyone responsible for this attempted attack is brought to justice."

A senior U.S. counter-terrorism official said that in Abdulmutallab's initial interviews with the FBI and Customs and Border Protection agents, the suspect "was saying he was acting alone, and not part of some larger connected plot."

Abdulmutallab, who was burned in Friday's incident, was under protective guard at a Detroit-area hospital Saturday. Under questioning, he seemed cooperative, "but who knows if he's telling the truth. Maybe that's the instructions you get [from Al Qaeda] for when you get caught," said the senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he, like others, was not authorized to publicly discuss the expanding investigation.

Federal authorities had been alarmed enough Friday, the official added, to alert about 128 other planes flying from Europe to the United States to prepare for similar attacks. All of those flights landed without incident.

Another U.S. intelligence official said that although Abdulmutallab said he had acted alone, there was evidence tying him to Al Qaeda's regional network of militants based in Osama bin Laden's ancestral home of Yemen.

"There is an association, but when you say [Al Qaeda] leaders, it's hard to say with certainty," the intelligence official said. "Who organized and who launched him? I can't give you a definitive judgment."

The official said that Abdulmutallab, an engineering student, had told his family in London in August that he wanted to go to Yemen to study; he reportedly had been there until earlier this month.

According to the intelligence official, Abdulmutallab said that he was trained in Yemen to make explosives that could escape detection -- and that militants had given him the materials for Friday's attempted attack.

In October, Al Qaeda's network in Yemen released the 11th edition of its official magazine. In it, top commander Abu Basir Wahishi advised supporters to use all available weapons to kill Westerners who were "apostates," or unbelievers. Two suggested venues: "in airports in the western crusade countries that participated in the war against Muslims; or on their planes."

A Yemeni official said Saturday that the Obama administration had formally requested his government's help in the investigation. "We are cooperating completely on this issue," said the official, adding that Yemen lacked sophisticated databases to track the thousands of students who make religious pilgrimages to the country every year.

"The whereabouts and exact details of what he did in Yemen are still unknown, but the investigation will clear up these things in the coming days," the official said.

According to the Justice Department, a judge informed Abdulmutallab of the charges against him during a hearing at the hospital.

Interviews with passengers and the crew of Flight 253 revealed that, before the incident, Abdulmutallab went to the bathroom for about 20 minutes and returned to his seat complaining of an upset stomach. He pulled a blanket over himself, and passengers heard popping noises similar to firecrackers, smelled an odor, and some observed his pants leg and the wall of the airplane on fire, an affidavit filed by FBI Special Agent Theodore James Peisig said.

Passengers and crew members then subdued Abdulmutallab and used blankets and fire extinguishers to put out the flames. "Passengers reported that Abdulmutallab was calm and lucid throughout. One flight attendant asked him what he had had in his pocket, and he replied, 'Explosive device,' " the affidavit said.

President Obama convened a secure call at 6:20 a.m. Saturday from Hawaii, where he spent Christmas with his family, to get a briefing from John Brennan, his homeland security advisor, and top National Security Council advisor Denis McDonough. "He received an update on the heightened air-travel safety measures being taken to keep the American people safe, and on the investigation," the White House said in a statement. "The president will continue to actively monitor the situation."

Authorities have been reviewing their databases to see whether Abdulmutallab had come to their attention in recent years. The suspect did not appear to be on any "no-fly" list or even a watch list, the intelligence official said. But he confirmed that Abdulmutallab's name had been entered into a U.S. counter-terrorism database several months ago, after the young man's father in Nigeria reported him to officials at the U.S. Embassy in the capital of Abuja and also to Nigerian security agencies.

Nigeria's online newspaper ThisDay reported that the suspect was the son of Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, a former minister and former chairman of the prominent Nigerian financial institution First Bank. The website said that Mutallab reported his son because he was concerned about Abdulmutallab's "extreme religious views."

The father "was said to be devastated on hearing the news. . . . A source close to him said he was surprised that after his reports to the U.S. authorities the young man was allowed to travel to the United States," the Nigerian news report said.

The intelligence official, however, said that the father's report was nothing more than the expressions of a concerned parent. It was not enough to raise the kind of alarm that would have stopped Abdulmutallab from traveling to the U.S. "In and of itself, it has no meaning, as an isolated piece of information," the official said.

He said that an apparent trip by Abdulmutallab to Houston in the summer of 2008 also did not raise suspicions. "He said he came here for business," the official said. "That's all we know."

On Saturday, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said he was troubled that Abdulmutallab had escaped the attention of the State Department and law enforcement. The chairman of the Senate's Homeland Security Committee, Lieberman said he wanted to know how Abdulmutallab "managed to retain a U.S. visa after such complaints, and why he was not recognized as someone who was reportedly named in the terrorist database."

FBI forensic experts Saturday began analyzing the powder and liquid to see how potent it was and whether it might have come from Yemeni militants as Abdulmutallab claimed, the U.S. intelligence official said.

The impoverished Arab nation has emerged as a stronghold for Al Qaeda-linked militants whose threat to U.S. interests worldwide, officials said, is second only to the terrorist organization's command-and-control center along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

ABC News quoted federal authorities as saying that the plot was organized and launched by Al Qaeda leaders in Yemen, who apparently sewed bomb materials into the suspect's underwear before sending him on his mission.

The so-called shoe-bomber, Richard Reid, had carried the same explosive substance in his failed December 2001 attempt to blow up a jet heading from London to the United States. Friday's explosive failed because the detonator may have been too small or was not in "proper contact" with the explosive material, investigators told ABC News.

Authorities in Britain searched an apartment Saturday in a posh residential area near where Abdulmutallab was thought to be a student at University College London, but had little comment. A Scotland Yard spokesman confirmed that authorities were "searching addresses in London" but gave no further details.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Saturday that she was grateful to the passengers and crew aboard Northwest Flight 253 for reacting "quickly and heroically to an incident that could have had tragic results."

Napolitano also said in a statement that the Homeland Security Department was working with federal, state and local law enforcement on additional security measures, "as well as our international partners on enhanced security at airports and on flights."

"The American people should continue their planned holiday travel and, as always, be observant and aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious behavior or activity to law enforcement officials," Napolitano said.

josh.meyer@latimes.com

Times staff writers Janet Stobart in London and Alana Semuels in Hawaii contributed to this report.
27-12-2009 02:13 PM
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2nd Nigerian arrested after another jetliner incident
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2nd Nigerian arrested after another jetliner incident
A man aboard the same flight that was attacked Christmas Day is held in Detroit.


The Associated Press

December 27, 2009 | 11:50 a.m.


DETROIT - A passenger aboard the same Northwest Airlines flight that was attacked on Christmas Day was taken into custody here Sunday after becoming verbally disruptive upon landing, officials said.

A law enforcement official said the man was Nigerian and had locked himself in the airliner's bathroom. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.

Delta Air Lines spokeswoman Susan Elliott said crew members requested that security remove the man from Flight 253 after he became disruptive. The remaining 255 passengers got off safely, she said.

Airport spokesman Scott Wintner said it was the same flight on which a man tried to set off an explosive on Christmas Day.

"The pilot requested emergency assistance upon arrival," he said.

Security and airline personnel are on edge since the attempted terror attack on Christmas Day, and the law enforcement official said that lesser incidents had been reported on other flights arriving in Detroit, but the incident with the Nigerian man had sparked the most concern.
27-12-2009 02:16 PM
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Janet Napolitano says there's no evidence of a wider terrorist plot
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Janet Napolitano says there's no evidence of a wider terrorist plot
The Homeland Security chief says it's unclear whether Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has Al Qaeda ties. Meanwhile, another Nigerian is detained on the same Northwest route from Amsterdam to Detroit.

By Josh Meyer

December 27, 2009 | 12:53 p.m.

Reporting from Washington - Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said today that there is no indication that a self-proclaimed Al Qaeda suicide bomber who allegedly tried to blow up a plane over Detroit on Christmas was part of a broader international effort to attack U.S. targets.

Napolitano, speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," said it was too early to speculate on the claims of Al Qaeda connections made by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian held in connection with the incident.

After his arrest in Detroit, Abdulmutallab said he had obtained a specialized explosive chemical compound and a syringe sewn into his underwear from a bomb expert in Yemen associated with the terror network, according to authorities.

However, Napolitano said that "right now we have no indication that it is part of anything larger."

Meanwhile, another Nigerian has been detained after causing a disturbance today on the same Northwest Airlines route from Amsterdam to Detroit. A federal law enforcement official would confirm only that authorities were called to meet the plane upon landing, and that they were investigating.

Detroit Metro Airport spokesman Scott Wintner told WWJ radio that there was a report of suspicious activity on the flight. About 10 emergency vehicles, sirens blaring, surrounded the plane after it landed.

Sue Elliott, a Delta spokeswoman, told CBS News that the passenger in question "was verbally disruptive. Out of abundance of caution the flight crew asked that the plane be met on arrival by law enforcement."

She said all 257 passengers have been safely taken off the plane. Delta operates the Northwest flight.

In Washington, an FBI official said, "The incident today is a sick passenger, and not security-related." The official requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.

Special agent Sandra Berchtold, spokeswoman for the FBI's Detroit Field Office, said she could not discuss details of the incident, including whether the person detained has been arrested. "We have an incident at Detroit Metro, but we cannot provide any further information than that," Berchtold said.

White House spokesman Bill Burton said today that President Obama, who is vacationing in Hawaii, had been notified of the latest incident by National Security Council Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.

On the same Northwest flight on Christmas Day, Abdulmutallab tried unsuccessfully to ignite the device he was carrying minutes before touchdown and was subdued by passengers and the crew of Northwest Flight 253, authorities said. The flight had left Amsterdam the day before and Abdulmutallab had begun his trip in Nigeria.

Napolitano also downplayed suggestions that Dutch or U.S. authorities should have stopped Abdulmutallab from flying, even though his name had been entered into a U.S. counter-terrorism database a month or so beforehand.

That broad security watch list contains "half a million" names and is shared with airlines and foreign security agencies. But Napolitano said that without specific evidence of suspicious activity, Abdulmutallab could not be formally classified as the kind of greater security risk that would bar him from traveling to the United States.

"You need information that is specific and credible if you're going to bar people from air travel," Napolitano said. "But there was not the kind of credible information, in the sense derogatory information, that would move him up the list."

Appearing on another Sunday morning talk show, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the system failed because U.S. officials did not place Abdulmutallab on a heightened watch list after his father went to U.S. authorities in Nigeria in recent months with concerns about his son's radicalization and ties to militants.

"It only makes common sense," McConnell said on ABC News' "This Week With George Stephanopoulos."

Michael Cutler, a former federal immigration and customs official, also said the father's complaints should have rung alarm bells.

"When you have a very credible source, the father of this alleged terrorist, a highly respected banker, we needed to act quickly and responsively to what he alerted our embassy about," Cutler said in an interview.

"If you want to profile a terrorist, this kid lands squarely in the middle box," Cutler said. "There were measures that could have been taken to verify the father's information, but we're not hearing that any of them were taken. If they were, we should be hearing about them."

Napolitano would not comment on whether Abdulmutallab has connections to Al Qaeda, or if authorities are pursuing other suspects, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.

She confirmed that there was no air marshal on the Northwest flight with Abdulmutallab. And she said that despite Abdulmutallab's success at sneaking the explosive chemicals aboard the plane, commercial flying is safe -- and safer today because of some measures put in place after the incident.

"The whole process of making sure that we respond properly, correctly and effectively went very smoothly," Napolitano said on CNN.

She said that different security procedures have been put in place at different airports to avoid the kind of predictability that would aid terrorists, and that "while we continue to investigate the source of this incident, the traveling public should be very confident of what we're doing now."

josh.meyer@latimes.com
27-12-2009 02:19 PM
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Man arrested in new disturbance on Detroit flight
27-12-2009 02:32 PM
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Officials: Only A Failed Detonator Saved Northwest Flight
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Officials: Only A Failed Detonator Saved Northwest Flight
Screening Machines May Need to Be Replaced; Al Qaeda Aware of 'Achilles heel'
By RICHARD ESPOSITO and BRIAN ROSS
Dec. 26, 2009

Officials now say tragedy was only averted on Northwest flight 253 because a makeshift detonator failed to work properly.

Man accused of attempt to blow up plane was sent on mission by terror leaders.

Bomb experts say there was more than enough explosive to bring down the Northwest jet, which had nearly 300 people aboard, had the detonator not failed, and the nation's outdated airport screening machines may need to be upgraded.

"We've known for a long time that this is possible," said Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism czar and ABC News consultant, "and that we really have to replace our scanning devices with more modern systems."

Clarke said full body scans were needed, "but they're expensive and they're intrusive. They invade people's privacy."

Al Qaeda, said Clarke, is aware of this vulnerability in the U.S. airport security system. "They know that this is a weakness and an Achilles' heel in our airport security system and this is the second time they've tried it."

In 2001, would-be "shoe bomber" Richard Reid failed in his attempt to blow up a transatlantic flight with a highly explosive chemical known as PETN. He attempted to light a fuse to his shoe on a December 22 American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami but was subdued by other passengers.

According to investigators, the bomb on Northwest flight 253, which was en route from Amsterdam to Detroit when suspect Umar farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly detonated it, contained more than 80 grams of PETN. The material was allegedly sewn into Abdulmutallab's underwear, and was not detected by airport security.

READ THE CRIMINAL COMPLAINT AGAINST ABDULMUTALLAB HERE


The bomb was built and the plot organized, say U.S. officials, by al Qaeda leaders in Yemen, just north of the capital city of Sanaa.

Suspect Was On Terrorism Watch List

Authorities say the 23-year-old suspect spent months in Yemen being trained for the Christmas Day suicide mission.

Investigators believe Abdulmutallab was connected to al Qaeda by the same radical imam, American-born Anwar Awlaki, who is linked to the American Army major accused of opening fire at Fort Hood in November.

According to investigators, the bomb used yesterday was built in Yemen by a top al Qaeda bomb maker.

Northwest Airlines flight 253 -- operated on a Delta airplane - was getting ready to land in Detroit just before noon Friday when "a passenger caused a disturbance," said Delta spokeswoman Susan Chana Elliott. The man, later identified as Abdulmutallab, was trying to ignite when was initially reported as firecrackers.

According to the criminal complaint filed against Abudlmutallab, he boarded KLM Flight 588 from Lagos, Nigeria and transferred to Northwest Flight 253 at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.

Prior to the incident, Abdulmutallab went to the bathroom for about 20 minutes. Upon returning to his seat, Abdulmutallab said he had an upset stomach, and pulled a blanket over himself.

Passengers then heard popping noises similar to firecrackers and smelled an odor. Some saw Abdulmutallab's pants leg and the wall of the airplane on fire. Passengers and crew then subdued Abdulmutallab and used blankets and fire extinguishers to put out the flames.

A passenger apparently saw the suspect holding what a partially melted and smoking syringe. The passenger took the syringe, shook it to stop it from smoking and threw it to the floor. Dutch filmmaker Jasper Schuringa has been identified in the media as a passenger who subdued Mutallab.

Abdulmutallab, who flew from Nigeria to Amsterdam and then Detroit, was taken into custody at the Detroit airport and was interviewed by authorities there. He was then taken to an area hospital to be treated for burns.

Abdulmutallab was on a terrorism watch list, but not on a no-fly list. Said Clarke, "So once again, we have the U.S. government, as in the case of the Fort Hood attacks, knowing about someone, knowing that they were suspicious, but that information didn't get to the right people in time."

Matthew Cole, Joseph Rhee and Rhonda Schwartz contributed to this story
27-12-2009 02:44 PM
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Al-Qaeda claims responsibility for attack Monday, December 28, 2009
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Al-Qaeda claims responsibility for attack
Monday, December 28, 2009

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WASHINGTON -- Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on Monday claimed responsibility for the attack on a U.S. airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day, saying it was retaliation for a U.S. operation against the group in Yemen.

Federal authorities met Monday to reassess the U.S. system of terror watchlists to determine how to avoid the type of lapse that allowed a man with explosives to board the flight in Amsterdam even though he was flagged as a possible terrorist.

In a statement posted on the Internet, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab coordinated with members of the group, an alliance of militants based in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Yemeni forces, helped by U.S. intelligence, carried out two airstrikes against al-Qaeda operatives in the country this month. The second one was a day before Abdulmutallab attempted to bring down a Northwest Airlines flight as it prepared to land in Detroit.

The group said Abdulmutallab used explosives manufactured by al-Qaeda members. "He managed to penetrate all devices and modern advanced technology and security checkpoints in international airports bravely without fear of death," the group said in the statement, "relying on God and defying the large myth of American and international intelligence, and exposing how fragile they are, bringing their nose to the ground, and making them regret all what they spent on security technology."

The group also released what it said was a photo of Abdulmutallab, smiling in a white shirt and white Islamic skullcap, overlaid on a graphic showing a plane taking off. In a second version of the same photo, he is shown with the Al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula banner in the background.

The claim of responsibility was dated Saturday but posted on Monday on a Web site frequently used by militants to disseminate their messages.

The Obama administration has ordered investigations into how travelers are placed on watch lists and how passengers are screened, as critics and administration officials questioned how Abdulmutallab was allowed to board the flight. A senior U.S. intelligence official said authorities were reviewing the procedures that govern the lists, which could include how someone is placed on or moved between the various databases.

"Why wasn't he flagged at a higher screening level?" Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on ABC's "Good Morning America." "How did he get an explosive substance on to the plane? All of those are serious questions that we are now looking at."

Passengers have faced stiffer boarding measures since Friday. Authorities warned travelers to expect extra delays returning home from holidays.

The intelligence official said the review will look at what adjustments could be made to avoid the type of gap that allowed Abdulmutallab to fly into Detroit even though Britain had refused to grant him a student visa in May. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the internal review.

Congress is already starting to weigh in. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said Monday that the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee would hold hearings on the incident in January. Lieberman is chairman of the committee.

Abdulmutallab is accused of trying to detonate an explosive device hidden on his body as the plane approached Detroit on a flight from Amsterdam last Friday. Law enforcement officials say he tucked below his waist a small bag holding a potentially deadly concoction of liquid and powder explosive materials. The device burst into flames without exploding, according to authorities, and Abdulmutallab was subdued by passengers. The plane landed safely.

His name was one of about 550,000 in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment database, known as TIDE, which is maintained by the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center. Inclusion in that database does not trigger mandatory additional airport screening. TIDE is the largest collection of names, with about 550,000. U.S. intelligence and law enforcement as well as trusted allies can nominate "known or suspected terrorists" for this database.

Napolitano conceded Monday that the aviation security system failed, backtracking from a statement Sunday in which she said the airline security system worked. She said her words had been taken out of context.

"Our system did not work in this instance," she said Monday on NBC's "Today" show. "No one is happy or satisfied with that. An extensive review is under way."

Harold Demuren, the head of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, said Abdulmutallab paid cash on Dec. 16 for the $2,831 round-trip ticket from Lagos, Nigeria, to Detroit via Amsterdam. He said Abdulmutallab's ticket came from a KLM office in Accra, Ghana.

Demuren said Abdulmutallab checked into his flight with only a small carryon bag.

Officials said he came to the attention of U.S. intelligence last month when his father, Alhaji Umar Mutallab, a prominent Nigerian banker, reported to the American Embassy in Nigeria about his son's increasingly extremist religious views.

In a statement released Monday, Abdulmutallab's family in Nigeria said that his father reached out to Nigerian security agencies two months ago. The statement says the father then approached foreign security agencies for "their assistance to find and return him home."

Abdulmutallab had been placed in a U.S. database of people suspected of terrorist ties in November, but officials say there was not enough information about his activities to place him on a watch list that could have kept him from flying.

In Britain, Abdulmutallab was placed on a standard watch list of people whose visa applications were rejected, but he was not flagged as a potential terror suspect, British officials said Monday.

Abdulmutallab, who graduated from a London university last year, had his subsequent visa application denied in May 2009. British officials said the school on his application form was not a government-approved institution.
29-12-2009 04:19 PM
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Abdulmutallab's underwear bomb shows Al Qaeda capable of singular acts of terrorism
PHOTO: Abdulmutallab's underwear bomb shows Al Qaeda capable of singular acts of terrorism
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BY James Gordon Meek In Washington and Dave Goldiner
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS

Tuesday, December 29th 2009, 4:00 AM

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national...z0b7lFMeLA

ABC News Monday night released government photos showing the ripped and charred beige underpants the 23-year-old Nigerian wore on his failed mission.

The pictures showed the singed 6-inch-long plastic container containing the powerful powder explosive PETN and a melted syringe Abdulmutallab used in an ill-fated effort to ignite the device.
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Abdulmutallab told officials terror bombmakers sewed the explosives into the crotch of his underwear before he got on the plane in Nigeria.

He later connected in Amsterdam to the Detroit-bound flight, which arrived on Christmas Day. He tried to use the syringe to set off the deadly device as the jet prepared to land, but it failed to detonate.

The stunning pictures also show how stopping wanna-be terrorists like Abdulmutallab is difficult to do.

A lone operative like Abdulmutallab may not be capable of repeating the complex 9/11 attack, but taking down a jetliner, such as Northwest Airlines Flight 253, with nearly 300 people aboard, would be a devastating accomplishment after all the billions spent for air security.

Al Qaeda remains "absolutely" focused on "spectacular" strikes intended to match or outdo the carnage of 9/11, said one U.S. counterterror official. Still, Al Qaeda "wouldn't discourage a smaller attack."

It seems the terror group's Yemen branch or its allies gave the recent Nigerian recruit a Terrorism for Dummies crash course and an unproven underwear bomb and sent him on his way, hoping for the worst.

Despite major successes killing top Al Qaeda leaders over the past year, it's still hard to detect and thwart a single terrorist with Abdulmutallab's bland profile.

"There is a line of thinking that we have so interrupted Al Qaeda's capability that they can't get anything together other than a singular act like this," another counterterror official said.

That's little comfort. An airliner bombing would still be devastating, and security officials can't count on the luck - a faulty bomb, a hero passenger - that thwarted the Christmas Day plot.

"The well-coordinated 9/11-style attack may not be as viable now as a 'lone wolf' type of individual" who wages jihad on his own after getting some training or expertise, an official said.

Much remains unknown about Abdulmutallab's contacts with extremists during the time he spent in Yemen from August to this month.

It appears he had few if any co-conspirators as he traveled home to Nigeria and through Amsterdam.

Although Al Qaeda's Arabian Peninsula branch boasted it had "direct coordination" with the bomber and gave him the "highly advanced device," President Obama called Abdulmutallab "an isolated extremist."

He was evidently not part of a cell or network planning simultaneous attacks.

He had a "clean" passport and traveled with ease. Rather than a jihadi background, he was a rich kid whose inexperience showed.

It's still a "leap" to presume Al Qaeda's high command ran the plot, U.S. officials said. "We're not there yet," one official said.

Al Qaeda said the bomber was motivated by "unjust American aggression" in the Middle East.

The would-be bomber mused on the Internet that he was "lonely" and had "never found a true Muslim friend," The Washington Post reported.

Abdulmutallab used the online handle farouk1986, a combination of his middle name and birth year, when posting hundreds of comments in Islamic chat rooms.

"I have no one to speak [to]," the future terrorist wrote in 2005, the paper said. "No one to consult, no one to support me, and I feel depressed and lonely. I do not know what to do. And then I think this loneliness leads me to other problems."

"I will describe myself as very ambitious and determined," he wrote. "I strive to live my daily life according to the [Koran] to the best of my ability."

He also chatted about love and his college plans, including his hopes to attend a top California university and his angst over a 1,200 score on the SAT college admission test. "It was a disaster!!!" he wrote.

jmeek@nydailynews.com



Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national...z0b7lXm3VF
29-12-2009 04:43 PM
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