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Updated: May 9, 2012 08:14 IST

U.S. foils another ‘underwear bomb' plot

Narayan Lakshman
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Al-Qaeda and its terror affiliates literally appeared to be aiming below the belt when the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency discovered a second, but more sophisticated, “underwear bomb” plot originating in Yemen and targeting a U.S.-bound airliner.

While intelligence officials suggested they had intercepted the device before it could pose a direct threat to any passengers, it was said to be more sophisticated in its configuration than the 2009 Christmas Day bomb hidden in the underwear of Nigerian-born Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

Similar to that incident, which had a major impact on airport security screening procedures in the U.S., including the controversial full-body screener, the organisation behind the latest plot was said to be al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Indications of cover-up

There also appeared to be indications of a cover-up by U.S. authorities. The Department of Homeland Security said last week that despite security concerns on the anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2, 2011, there were “no indication of any specific, credible threats or plots against the U.S.” linked to that event.

Yet it has become evident that when that statement was issued by the DHS the alleged AQAP bomb plot investigation was proceeding secretly. Subsequently, the Guardian reported, the Associated Press news agency revealed that it had first learned about the underwear bomb last week, “but agreed to a request by the White House to hold back because intelligence operations were ongoing.”

According to the information possessed by the Associated Press, unnamed U.S. officials said that the would-be bomber had been handed the bomb by al-Qaeda operatives, who had however “left the choice of plane and the timing to him.” The fate of the alleged bomber was reportedly still unknown.

In a more recent statement the Federal Bureau of Investigation noted that it “currently has possession of the IED [Improvised Explosive Device] and... initial exploitation indicates that the device is very similar to IEDs that have been used previously by AQAP in attempted terrorist attacks, including against aircraft and for targeted assassinations.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is currently on a visit to India, said “These terrorists... keep trying to devise more and more perverse and terrible ways to kill innocent people and it’s a reminder as to 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.”

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