A man under orders from al Qaeda to blow up a US-bound airliner was a double agent, according to media reports. The operative is believed to have infiltrated the group and volunteered for the mission.
The al Qaeda plot to bomb an airliner heading for the United States was disrupted with the help of a Saudi double-agent, according to media reports from the Washington Post and the New York Times late on Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia's intelligence service played a pivotal role in planting operatives within the group known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
One man is reported to have spent several weeks undercover in Yemen, where a bomb designed specifically to escape detection at airports was being prepared for an attack.
The agent is understood to have volunteered for a mission to smuggle the bomb aboard an aircraft and detonate it.
CIA operatives spent weeks tracking the bomb, which was eventually handed over by the Saudi agent after he left Yemen.
Experts investigate bomb design
FBI Experts are reported to be analyzing the device, to see if it could really have been smuggled aboard a plane. The New York Times quoted a senior US official as saying the bomb was sewn into "custom fit" underwear that would not be detected in a security pat-down.
Officials did not disclose the identity of the agent or the intelligence service that recruited him. However, they said it was not the CIA. The White House made the bomb plot public on Monday, saying they had thwarted an attack which was scheduled to take place in April.
Unlike the device used by AQAP in a failed December 2009 plot against an airliner bound for Detroit, the explosive had a back-up detonation mechanism.
Officials in Yemen announced on Sunday that Fahd al Quso, believed to be a leading AQAP figure involved in the plot, had been killed in a drone airstrike.
rc/ccp (AFP, dpa, Reuters)