May 7th, 2012
06:09 PM ET

Official: Attempt to blow up plane thwarted

Editor's note: U.S. and international intelligence agencies have broken up an attempt to blow up a U.S.-bound jetliner, a U.S. counterterrorism official told CNN. Follow further developments here.

[Updated at 6:09 p.m. ET] A U.S. official told CNN the plot was disrupted "well before it was ever a threat to the United States.”

The official added that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was the group responsible for the plot.

"We believe AQAP produced the device, and we believe it was intended to be used by a suicide bomber on an aircraft," the official said. "The device and the plot are consistent with what we know about AQAP’s plans, intentions, and capabilities. They remain committed to striking targets in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the Homeland, and Europe. And AQAP is probably feeling pressure to conduct a successful attack to, from their perspective, avenge the deaths of Bin Laden and (Anwar al-Awlaki).”

Terrorist's death signals U.S-Yemen cooperation

The official added, as others have, that the device has the hallmarks of their previous bombs including the failed assassination attempt on Saudi security official Mohammed Bin Nayif as well as the failed 2009 Christmas Day bombing.

"While similar, a preliminary review of this device shows that it has some significant differences from the device used in the Christmas day attack," the U.S. official said. "It is clear that AQAP is revamping its bomb techniques to try to avoid the causes of the failure of the 2009 device."

The official said the FBI was thoroughly examining the device.

The U.S. official added it believed that the threat from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is due in part to territorial gains they were able to make during Yemen's political standoff in early 2011.

"Those territorial gains have allowed the group to establish additional training camps," the official said.

[Updated at 5:58 p.m. ET] Defense Secretary Leon Panetta confirmed the plot during a press conference on an unrelated issue.

"What this incident makes clear is that this country has to continue to remain vigilant against those that would seek to attack this country," Panetta said. "We will do everything necessary to keep America safe"

[Updated at 5:36 p.m. ET] CNN Terrorism Analyst Paul Cruickshank says one of the key things officials will be looking at is the exact make-up of the device and how it may be similar or different to the device used in the attempted bombing of an airliner in 2009.

Cruickshank said the suspect in the 2009 attempt, dubbed the "underwear bomber" wore the device for a long time as he traveled throughout Africa and it may have become desensitized. Tests on this device may allow officials to learn more about what changes al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula may have been made following the failed bombing.

Al Qaeda's biggest threat: al Asiri

[Updated at 5:20 p.m. ET] Matt Chandler, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, released a statement saying that they had no specific threat about an active plot against the U.S.

The Department of Homeland Security statement added that the incident showed that enemies still have a high interest in targeting air transportation, which underscores the continued need for increased security at airports.

The statement reads:

“We have no specific, credible information regarding an active terrorist plot against the U.S. at this time, although we continue to monitor efforts by al-Qaeda and its affiliates to carry out terrorist attacks, both in the Homeland and abroad. Since this IED demonstrates our adversaries’ interest in targeting the aviation sector, DHS continues, at the direction of the President, to employ a risk-based, layered approach to ensure the security of the traveling public.

"These layers include threat and vulnerability analysis, prescreening and screening of passengers, using the best available technology, random searches at airports, federal air marshal coverage and additional security measures both seen and unseen. DHS will continue to work with our federal, state, local, international and private sector partners to identify potential threats and take appropriate protective measures. As always, we encourage law enforcement and security officials, as well as the general public, to maintain vigilance and report suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities.”

[Updated at 5:16 p.m. ET] The FBI released a statement Monday afternoon saying that the device was seized abroad.

It reads in full:

"As a result of close cooperation with our security and intelligence partners overseas, an improvised explosive device (IED) designed to carry out a terrorist attack has been seized abroad. The FBI currently has possession of the IED and is conducting technical and forensics analysis on it. Initial exploitation indicates that the device is very similar to IEDs that have been used previously by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in attempted terrorist attacks, including against aircraft and for targeted assassinations. The device never presented a threat to public safety, and the U.S. government is working closely with international partners to address associated concerns with the device. We refer you to the Department of Homeland Security, including the Transportation Security Administration, regarding ongoing security measures to safeguard the American people and the traveling public."

[Updated at 5:10 p.m. ET]  CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellen reports that a counterterrorism official said they do not believe the attack was  planned to coincide with the anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden.

Officials said they believed the device never posed a threat to the public and heralded the thwarted plot and recovered device as a sign that American intelligence capabilities have improved.

[Updated at 5:05 p.m. ET] Caitlin Hayden, the Deputy National Security Council Spokesperson, released a statement about the plot on behalf of the White House:

"The President was first informed about the plot in April by his Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor John Brennan, and he has received regular updates and briefings as needed from his national security team. 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. The disruption of this IED plot underscores the necessity of remaining vigilant against terrorism here and abroad. The President thanks all intelligence and counterterrorism professionals involved for their outstanding work and for serving with the extraordinary skill and commitment that their enormous responsibilities demand.”

[Updated at 5:03 p.m. ET] A U.S. counterterrorism official said the specific device was "nonmetallic" and was made to be used by a suicide bomber on an airliner.

The device is different from what was used by the "underwear bomber" in 2009, but it was in the same category, the official said. Those changes show al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is adapting its tactics.

[Updated at 4:50 p.m. ET] U.S. and international intelligence agencies have broken up an attempt to blow up a U.S.-bound jetliner, a U.S. counterterrorism official told CNN on Monday.

"This is a success story," the U.S. official said, adding that an explosive device was recovered.

The device has the hallmarks of previous bombing attempts by members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula including those used in the attempted bombing of a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day in 2009 and against a senior Saudi official earlier in 2009, according to the U.S official. Both devices were associated with Ibrahim Hassan al Asiri, the official said.

The plot was disrupted before it threatened Americans or allies and no airlines were at risk, the U.S official said.

The recovery of the device underscores the need to remain vigilant against a resilient and determined enemy, the official said.

Investigators are looking to analyze the device and expect it will yield valuable insights that will assist in adapting security practices here and abroad, officials said.

This story is developing. We will bring you the latest information as soon as we get it.

soundoff (367 Responses)
  1. Oneself

    ha news....

    May 7, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • sxj016

      Ain't it amazin how the US can always stop terrorism threats against the mainland? According to my last count they've stopped 100% since 9/11/01. Does anyone else think it's statistically improbable that the US counter intellegence is that good? Statistically speaking...NO ONE is that good. This story, as soooo many, is complete bull$h!t.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Franky

      I'm the juggernaut, b....

      -President Barak Hussein Obama

      Where you at Mittens?

      May 7, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • bspurloc

      mittens is busy trying to figure out the exact opposite thing to see regardless what what he said last week.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • sharky

      What is weird, first it is being reported that Obama was made aware of this "plot" back in April and received regular updates. John Brennan in an interview most recently said this "“there is no credible reporting right now that there is an active plot under way...." The quote was meaning to mark the anniversary of OBL's death. Yet this plot was foiled right around OBL's death date and Obama was made aware of the plot in April.

      This seems most odd in my opinion.

      May 7, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Glenda

    I'm certain it wasn't a radical muslim since just last week a senior state department official told National Journal that the global war on terror was over since most Al Qaeda have been killed, and the Obama administration directed the armed forces to remove any references to Islam from their training curricula.

    Probably some angry caucasion upset at Obama. Tea bagger.

    May 7, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |

      Well Glenda, haven't you been conditioned well enough to support your loving Dictator Obama?

      May 7, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Observer

      Unnamed source. Not officially announced.

      Try dealing with FACTS.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      *teabags Glenda* Yah you like that!!

      May 7, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • bspurloc

      Correction... Obama didnt tell them to do anything the Armed Forces did!
      you know the same ones that invaded IRAQ not bush!

      May 7, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • sharky

      I really hope you are being sarcastic with the whole not being an Islamic terrorist bit and it possibly being a Tea Partier. LOL. You are dead wrong, but still.

      Heck even the Ohio Bridge would be bombers were OWSers. LOL

      May 7, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brandon

      Actually liberal lawyers are the ones telling us to change the verbage in our training.
      -Military Instructor

      May 7, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |

    Hah. Sounds like another underwear bomber.

    May 7, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |

    May 7, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • tj

      @Bill Trimble What is the point of you posting a link to the link in your response? Are you siding with the ACLU that criminals are not getting a fair shake? That this has been happening since 9/11 under GWB's watch? Not a very clear message here, Bill.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. rachel

    I'm not sure I believe stuff like this anymore. It's just talk and they don't provide evidence at all. How do we know this actually happened and that the government isn't trying to justify their continuous efforts to thwart American's right to privacy?
    Not saying this ISN'T true, I' just don't trust anybody anymore.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • William80

      ok buddy, now go put your tinfoil hat back on.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • NC

      Me too rachel.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve505

      Join the club, Rachel. Keep it up, it's good to see Americans thinking with their own minds rather than letting the government-run media do their thinking for them.

      May 7, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. tfbuckfutter

    Yet another one foiled by intelligence instead of minimum wage slaves looking inside your anus.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Keksi

    More lies,got to make War on Terror very believable.

    When will they show evidence of Osamas death to public???

    May 7, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • rosie

      Just grow up.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Johnjon

      who gave you access to a computer? you need a new hobby.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. calen

    The article makes it sound like it was the US the stopped the plot, it was a plane headed for USA not from or in USA

    May 7, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ro

    OBAMA is a HERO. Vote for him

    May 7, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Observer


    When you can supply ANY PROOF of the nonsense you tell, then you will BEGIN to have credibility.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Keksi

      You want me to show you proof that government did not provide any proof of Osama death on May1st??

      May 7, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Brad76

    Islamic extremists will never win. Period.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Franky

    Mittens wouldn't have done it!

    May 7, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. quaky

    There is absolutely no "truth" to this story. In other news the U.S. elections are coming up, so we will see more of this kind of junk until then.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Lee

    Regardless how a lot of people feel about the president or any aspect of the government this is good news. I can't imagine what people would be saying or who they'd be blaming if this didn't turn out good and innocent people got killed. Just be thankful that this attempt had a happy ending.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. tintumon

    I guess the 'device' is underwear 🙂

    May 7, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
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