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. Truthbetold

    This is the future of anti-terrorism....not fighting sand storms in the dessert.

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

    For those confused, if you read the story it would appear that the threat was stopped by the Yemeni government rather than the US, (but as it pertains to terrorism, of course a US counter-terroism official would be relaying the news).

    May 7, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dave

    I don't understand why every thwarted plot has a claim in it like this:

    "and no airlines were at risk"

    Clearly, if there was a plot to blow up an airplane...airlines were at risk!

    May 7, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. bspurloc

    yet another DEVICE Americans will be accused of using DOMESTICALLY for the TSA to search in Child and Adult Diapers for.....

    May 7, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Charlie

    Drink the koolaid, people. Just drink the koolaid. Do not ask questions.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • MyTake

      Seem like you have had enough for everyone and a tin hat ... LOL

      May 7, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vince

      You jump to conclusion without first contemplating other possibilities. That sounds like the def. of "drinking the koolaid" to me so I'd say you're on some sort of kooilaid right now.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  6. 866Bway

    Last time I checked, news of a thwarted terorist attack was something to cheer no matter who is president. Time to put away the tin foil hats people; sometimes things just are what they are.

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

    Keksi – MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. No? That was not a pack of lies? I think we still have troops in Iraq.

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

    I want to see this bomb. For all we know at this point, its just the U.S Government trying to scare the American people into thinking our safety is at risk. Sorry to doubt this story but seeing is believing.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rosslyn

      @Freedom Fighter, you are exactly right. Most of this is fearmongering is fabricated by the industrial war complex just to justify increased defense spending and keep their pockets lined with taxpayer money instead of letting there be social justice where tax money helps other Americans. There's also discrimination here, trying to make islam look like a bad religion.

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

      The same people doubting this story will say it was the US government which planted the bomb if another such tragedy happens.

      May 7, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      Of course, I'm sure you're a seasoned Counter Terror professional...IDIOT...what more proof do you need??

      May 7, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. MyTake

    Excellent. Seem we are all getting better at this ... good new for once.

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

    The democrats are doing a great job of fighting terrorism. Between Osama and all these foiled attacks the GOP can not call the dems wimps. Rubio has the chutzpah to say Obama should not talk about getting Osama Bin Ladin. lmao. Like the GOP would not brag. Cut me a break.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  11. mfx3

    I laugh at al Qaeda...inept, incompetent, and yesterday's news.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Selmers

    Im guessing this wasnt thwarted by TSA

    May 7, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Newo

    Doesn't it suck that if the plot had been successful all of these comments would be saying that we should have done more to prevent it? But if the news reports a success story in fighting terror no one believes it.
    Please continue typing away ungratefully on your computer.

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

      I'm not ungrateful, I just don't trust my government anymore.

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

    Thank you, good citizens for reading this. It's faithful sheeple like you that enables us to continue justifying our existence and raking in the big bucks! Please continue to allow our sound bytes to keep you in a heightened state of pants-soaking terror at the thought of nasty arabiac terrorists who may or may not actually exist. And remember: If you see something, say something!(c). And if you don't say something, then you're WITH THE TERRORISTS! We know where you live too! Hey, how'd you like a nice all-expenses paid trip to Guantanamo, huh? We have many ways of making you talk, pinko!

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

      I stopped reading you rant after your usage of that ridiculous word "sheeple".

      May 7, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. MyTake

    Good new for once

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