US officials have said they foiled a plot by al Qaeda's branch in Yemen to blow up an airliner in April. US officials have said the recovered devise was a sophisticated version of the 2009 Christmas day "underwear bomb."
A US counterterrorism official said on Monday that the CIA foiled a plot by al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen to blow up an airliner in April.
US officials have stressed that the plot, reportedly hatched by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), was uncovered at an early stage, meaning that "at no point were any airliners at risk."
"The device never presented a threat to public safety, and the US government is working closely with international partners to address associated concerns with the device," the FBI said in a statement.
Reports suggest that no target for the attack had yet been chosen and no plane tickets had been bought. The status of the alleged suicide bomber appears to be unknown.
The FBI is conducting technical and forensic analysis on the recovered device, which they described as a sophisticated upgrade of the so-called "underwear bomb" that failed to detonate aboard an airliner over Detroit on Dec. 25, 2009.
"Initial exploitation indicates that the device is very similar to IEDs (improvised explosive devices) that have been used previously by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in attempted terrorist attacks, including against aircraft and for targeted assassinations."
Obama informed in April
White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said President Barack Obama was first briefed about the plot back in April. She added that Obama was told by his deputies that lives were never in danger.
"While the president was assured that the device did not pose a threat to the public, he directed the Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement and intelligence agencies to take whatever steps necessary to guard against this type of attack," Hayden said in a statement.
AQAP has been linked to the 2009 Christmas plot in which the device was sewn into the underwear of would-be suicide bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
It has also been linked to a 2010 attempt to blow up cargo planes bound for the United States with explosives hidden in printer cartridges.
ccp/jm (AFP, AP, Reuters)