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. cpc65

    Strap a couple of M-80's to his nads and light the fuse. They'd be the first thing to go if the plot had worked anyway.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Hitman

    I suppose Obama will take credit for this also since he can't blame anyone else!

    May 7, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • fandancy

      Why would he blame anyone else?

      May 7, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • mochica

      That doesn't even make any sense. You would criticize him no matter what he did. You are cutting off your nose to spite your face. He is the president of the USA. Your hatred of him is hatred of our country.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • DeeNYC

      Blame? I guess you're just another brain dead pub who doesn't bother to read the article and just come in and post bs.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Keith1960

    So what's the deal?

    "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."

    Or did they thwart an attempt to blow up a specific plane? I'm confused.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. zephyr99

    The good news is that passengers will soon be allowed to wear their shoes when passing through airport security. The bad news...

    May 7, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Hitman

    Ho hum. Anything to distract us from Obama's failures!

    May 7, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • fandancy

      Sorry to tell you, but you are a loser. But I'm sure you've been told that all your life, anyway.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • mochica

      I'm sorry this threat was thwarted. It would have given you a legitimate reason to criticize the president instead of a latent one.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Look at you Hitman, you're on a roll! You're a brave man to speak negatively about the President, since that's never been done before. Instead of focusing on Obama's political shortcomings, maybe you should work on repairing the social life you've crippled while working on complaining abou him.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Astronaut Space Monkey


      May 7, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mochica

    Republicans and Fox News better think quickly to find a way to put a negative spin on this!

    May 7, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hitman

      That is easy. Obama thinks that he is in command!

      May 7, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    This President knows that when you get "actionable intelligence information" you must act, that's why this attempt was foiled. And to all you Obama haters, yes Obama deserves credit for your behind not being blown to pieces. You better learn to thank him, because it may be your last chance.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hitman

      Obama deserves credit? For what? Heh,heh,heh!

      May 7, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. luckycharmz337

    Good Job Guys!!! Keep up the amazing work

    May 7, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tyler

    Let me guess, they very nearly obtained some dubious piece of antiquated Russian artillery, and were only a matter of months away from finding someone smart enough to disassemble the device and then reassemble back into something that would actually explode, and were only a few thousands of dollars and several hundred IQ points away from almost putting together a plan that had even a 5% chance of succeeding. Good job DHS! You're the meteorologists of the terrorism world – where you can't even tell me with 100% certainty what happened yesterday... much less make any predictions about tomorrow.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. awram

    The key to detonation requires a battery. As long as they let people on with their phones, I-pads, laptops and MP3 players there will alway be away to set off an exposive that is not detectable at screening. I am a firm believer of making people check everything they have. It would be faster to get on and off the plane without the arguements with the over head space. It's rare that there is any room in the compartment above me because of how much crap people think they need to carry with them.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  11. brianyg

    And yet there is this element who continually complains about being frisked/touched/x-rayed at airport security check points. It's the height of arrogance, ignorance and self deluded priviledge to think you shouldn't have to submit to these necessary checks... Get over yourself people, before you foolishly roll out the red carpet to another 911.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. rh

    I'll tell you one thing, if people purporting to be of my religion went around "waging Holy War" with underwear bombs, I would certainly call them a fringe element.

    I mean, seriously. Does the Qu'ran even address the use of underwear bombs? Did the Prophet tell us how, when, and where to use them?

    May 7, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  13. rad666

    Sounds made up.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  14. dreamer96

    Time to bring a rob with you if you fly...strip down and get ready for a body cavity search...Ohhhhh Yeeeaaahh...Ouch!!!!

    May 7, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. bdgfn

    I hate that CNN and other news organizations use headlines and "breaking news" banners to lure us in, then tell us the story is 3 years old. That's BS!

    May 7, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • CedarRapids

      where are reading that this story is 3 years old?

      May 7, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • straittalk

      What are you talking about? This story is about what happened about an hour ago.

      May 7, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • HUH?

      I think you misread the article. The 'device' was found recently but was not believed to be intended for use on the anniversary of OBLs death. They then COMPARE it to a device from 2009. This is a new device, it was intended for a new target. Thank you President Obama, the CIA, FBI, TSA etc for finding this

      May 7, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • freeme10

      LOL – you have to read for context friend.

      May 7, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • nosepicker

      The story is hard to follow but I believe it says they recently recovered a bomb similar to one recovered in 2009.

      May 7, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheMovieFan

      Work on reading comprehension.

      May 7, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • dreamer96

      And yet you take the time to post a comment,,hmmm

      May 7, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • NoRadicalsPlease

      you misread the article, it said the newly found device was the same type as the 2009 event

      May 7, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
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