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. Robrob

    What's really startling is you are able to type without getting all that drool in the keyboard.

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

    I don't believe it, another set-up by the government. This way they make people to believe TSA is necessary.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. dou44

    What a bunch of gov't produced drama. AQAP? Stupid movie script name.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mrdifficult

    Did you see MI Ghost Protocol? The chick in that movie almost makes my non-metallic explosive device go off. . .

    May 7, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
  5. J R Brown

    So the TSA still hasn't caught anyone trying to blow up a plane...?
    Nice to know we're paying all that money for nothing.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dennis you noticed they travel the path of least resistance too.

      May 7, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Leo's friend

    "I would like to say "GREAT JOB" to all of the men and women. That are out there doing what you do to keep us all safe at home. That yellow ribbon has a Oak tree right in the middle of it in my yard. Thank you!!!!!"

    Yes, thank you, military. Keep on creating terrorists bent on killing us innocents back home thanks to your meddling in foreign countries. Thanks, soldiers, for signing up for a volunteer armed forces, being part of the military machine that kills civilians and incites more violence than before.

    Thank you, again. Sincerely. I love feeling unsafe at home.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bubba North

    You would think they would be trying to get on US soil, not trying to blow themselves up on the way. They could make a lot more havoc in the US versus blowing up one plane.... So if they could get on the plane, why not come to the US then? I'll never get it.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Av8nut

      Exactly what I was thinking. What is it about the airline industry they are targeting? They could do a lot more damage at a minimally secured public sporting event. Just sayin....

      May 8, 2012 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
    • griffin

      The bomb, they believe, was heading to a site in America. If it detonated above an airport as it lowered for landing, it would kill A LOT of people because the fiery debris would hit fuel trucks and other planes on the ground and could cause them to explode. Think about it.

      May 8, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • smoki

      Heck, they don't even need to fly to the U.S. They could fly or sail to Mexico, pay a cabbie to take them to the border, walk in, meet their buds, go to a mall or a ballgame, blow themselves up along with dozens, maybe more, of innocent American bystanders while the Al Qaida masterminds in Yemen or wherever set back and watch us on CNN while we come unraveled at the seams economically, etc. This reported investigative coup in which intelligence people are patting themselves on the back could be a clever decoy to focus attention where they, the terrorists, ain't. Bet it wouldn't take long to seal that border if such a scenario were carried out. There are continuing reports of evidence indicating there have been border crossings by people from "countries of interest" code for suspected terrorists comprising Al Qaida cells. But to heck with that, voting fraud for Obama is far more important than our security!

      May 12, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  8. Good

    These inhuman animals do not sleep or stop at trying to murder and kill people. We should not stop either and expand the Drone attacks 1000 fold. This needs to be solved once and for all.

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

      Unfortunately this won't end until the end of time. Consider that this has been going on since the 6th century. It has only in the last 20 years seriously begun to involve us directly though there was a period in American history (early 19th century) when the Barbary Pirates (Muslims) were a menace to our sea borne commerce but President Monroe (of the Monroe Doctrine) sent a Navy Squadron into the Med which proceeded to kick BP/Muslim butt to the point they surrendered. They pretty much left us alone for the following 170 years. We can intercept and kill them but there's more suicidal maniacs to replace them. It will be a full time job for the foreseeable future. Our's and the world's best hope is aiding those in terrorist countries who are friendly toward us (not Muslim Brotherhood) to effect regime change, something the Muslim sympathizer, Obama, has been loath to do. There are plenty good people still in Iran who remember how much better it was under the Shah. If supported they would fight to rid themselves of their insane bloodthirsty theocratic Islamo-Nazi rulers. The Islamic Revolution which is ultimately what is behind all this terrorism crap is the direct result of one little incompetent boob of a man, the whiny peanut farmer from Georgia, Jimmy Carter. He helped Ayotollah Khomenie return to Iran and left the Shah to hang there twisting in the wind whence he finally had to abdicate and beg for relief. He was no saint but he was a friendly ally and Iranians were friendly toward Americans back then.

      May 12, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  9. Rosco

    Wait! Didn't the terrorists stop planning killing Americans when the Great O.B. said the "war on terror was over" ?

    May 7, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Timothy

    What's next? C-4 or Thermite Tampons ?

    May 7, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Change

      They keep sending us violent d-bags. Close enough?

      May 7, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
  11. maltytasker

    Kudos to the CIA for their part in catching this guy before he could do any damage. And say what you will about the TSA being overzealous in doing their jobs; this incident shows that terrorism is still a real threat to us, and I would rather the TSA be too careful than not careful enough.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Angela

    Thank you!

    May 7, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. William Wallace


    May 7, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. TerryToo

    My goodness. CNN has produced a world of swamps with their blogs.

    May 7, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ZorakLives

    It is impossible to provide 100% effective protection against terrorism. If the threat were real, by now at least a couple of terrorist attacks against the U.S. attempted since 9/11 would have been at least partially successful. The lack of success should call into question the severity of the threat.

    May 7, 2012 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
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