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. the muslim boogie man

    BOOO!!! Got you didn't I ?

    May 7, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

    This Republican wants everybody to notice that these bomb plots are being aborted very well under Obama.
    Hearing of safe plane arrivals makes it fine with me for the government to listen to my dirtiest telephone jokes.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Lenny Pincus

    Uh, oh. Another well done for Obama and his people. Quick, wingers, find something wrong.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Granny

    O my green beans . Thank you USA men for doing good workings ...O my goodness sake ...USA USA !!!!

    May 7, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Big_D

    The GOP was counting on this one, TOO BAD GOP!!

    May 7, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. dscon

    "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. "

    COOL lets do some R&D work for the enemy.........
    so now they know the failure of the underwear bomb was something to do with longevity/handling!

    May 7, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul in Denver

      The failure was due to intentional design by the CIA. They only wanted it to be found so that we would have more naked body scanners in airports.

      May 7, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Islam4fools

    Man it is ridiculous that the west has to spend billions of dollars on security so the Muslims don't feel discriminated.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. newenki

    and their REPTILIAN SHAPESHIFTING allies

    May 7, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Granny

    Bin laden must be alive in Iran . USA men thank you granny from new york

    May 7, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  10. mike e

    Rest assured, if Isreal wants to bring a plane down, it will be down.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  11. The Tin Foil Brigade Is Here

    Time for your annual adjustment.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ryan

    Too bad nobody trusts a word our media or government says anymore.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • christine

      Why am I having a hard time believing this. Just don't trust media and government anymore. They will cry wolf and declare we need to take away more freedoms to stay "save "

      May 7, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  13. paramedic2274

    These kinds of weapons are not the ones that keep me awake at night. Its the nuclear, chemical and biological weapons we need to worry about. Of course we never hear anything about these in the media. That is frightening! These attacks are in no way comparable to 9-11, which we know took them years to plan and execute. I fear the next major attack may pale in comparison. Its a good thing that Obama pulled our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, we may very well need them here.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Troy

      al Qaeda doesn't have any weapons like that, I don't fear AQ one bit, and well there are tons of troops inside of USA and that isn't going to change anything either

      May 7, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. angeson

    How about everybody from Yemen gets a cavity search until they take their country back.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. cyborg

    this bs don't work no more. go away cnn and the rest of your ilk. the world doesn't hear you anymore.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
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