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"Report: CIA foiled al-Qaida plot to destroy US-bound airliner"
Monday, May 7, 2012
Report: CIA foiled al-Qaida plot to destroy US-bound airliner
The CIA foiled a plot by al-Qaida's affiliate in Yemen to bomb a U.S.-bound
airliner around the one-year anniversary of the killing of its former leader
Osama bin Laden, senior U.S. officials told NBC News.
Officials said the plot involved a bomb with a design that upgraded the
underwear bomb taken aboard a jetliner over Detroit on Christmas 2009. That
explosive device failed to detonate.
The improved bomb had a more refined detonation mechanism, but was still
intended to be hidden in a passenger's underwear. Officials told NBC News
the device was "totally non-metallic," which would have made it more
difficult to detect by traditional screening processes.
An official told NBC News no airlines were ever at risk. The plot was
disrupted well before it threatened Americans or U.S. allies, the official
Counter-terror officials deem the thwarted plot a "success story," NBC News
The FBI is currently in possession of the device and is conducting technical
and forensics analysis on it, according to a statement released Monday.
According to The Associated Press, the would-be suicide bomber was
instructed to buy a ticket on the airliner of his choosing and decide the
timing of the attack.
The U.S. officials interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity to
discuss the sensitive case.
It's unclear who built the bomb, but the device does bear similarities to
other explosive devices built by master bomb-maker Ibrahim al-Asiri.
However, Asiri may not have been directly involved in this plot.
According to one official, there is "evidence that Asiri has passed along
his bomb-making knowledge to others." The official would not say whether
Asiri or an apprentice were involved in this plot.
In an exclusive meeting, a senior U.S. intelligence official told NBC News
that Asiri posed the single most dangerous threat to the United States.
According to the official, Asiri is the most capable of carrying out
al-Qaida's threat to launch a significant terrorist attack to kill Americans
inside the United States.
Asiri designed the first underwear bomb that failed over Detroit and he was
also the maker of the printer ink cartridge bombs that were discovered
before they were shipped to the United States.
The senior official said counter-terrorism officials were seriously troubled
by the ink cartridge bombs because they were "particularly sophisticated. "
Asiri has also implanted a bomb inside his brother in a failed attempt to
assassinate Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the Saudi deputy interior minister.
The minister survived, but Asiri's brother did not.
Officials also say the plot had no apparent ties to the anniversary of the
killing of bin Laden. One official told NBC News the timing was
A White House statement said President Obama was told of the plot in April.
"The disruption of this IED (improvised explosive device) plot underscores
the necessity of remaining vigilant against terrorism here and abroad," the
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