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. tom

    good work, naysayers are muslim apologists or simply stupid.

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

      who's gonna apologize for your blanket generalizations? Extremists are dangerous certainly, but your desire to start a holy war is as sickening as their misuse of the koran

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

      Well the people who informed the US of the threat are Muslim too so why is Islam only responsible for the bad act can't you see that the one's foiling the threat were Muslims too?

      May 7, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • paul

      wow ... I am amazed by how smart you really really are ... your observations are so useful and contributing to the topic. What would we do if you suddenly died away?

      I would drink a beer .. I think ... knowing you are now keeping company with Bin Laden ... kissing his ... you know what

      May 7, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bob

    You can bet, tonight or tomorrow morning there will be just enough evidence, just enough plot and someone to capture and trot out in front of the cameras for everyone to see to validate every extra security ageny and every single law enforcement individual is justified and worth their effort in "lives saved."

    May 7, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Guest

    Breaking news and this happened in April. Sort of have the news media on a string for this one.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  4. pismire

    Partial win. I read nothing about the capture of the people RESPONSIBLE for the device. Soo... He'll just make another. At least BUSH put them in PRISON or K1ll3d them.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Wake Up America

    America has staged terror attacks to promote certain agendas this is fact it is on record and has even been reported by the news networks themselves. Please people need to open their eyes stop this blind loyalty. Do research get educated beyond what you learn in highschool. I love my country and what it stands for please don't let us lose what we have in fear of these Al Queso people.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Hitman

    I'm sorry. I'm just a tool of Fox News and the Republicans.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ca Ed

      I agree that you are just a tool..

      May 7, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. MacArthur's Ghost

    Why do these things always turn up when the defense budget is on the chopping block?

    May 7, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • These aren't the droids you're looking for.

      Probably just a coincidence.

      May 7, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. mlong

    I agree with everything being checked. It takes longer to get off the ground and off the plane with all the "carry ons" What good are they if the plane blows up.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. t3chsupport

    They don't have to do anything if they want to take our freedom. All they have to do is say 'BOO!', and we take it away ourselves.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. dreamer96

    You know we could give a lot of travelers some free health exams before each flight..we are almost there now..combine Omaba's health care plan, and DHS security concerns, and those TSA security pat downs, and we are on our way to universal health exams...Just put in some doctors examining rooms next to the security check points..and we get a full doctor's physical checkup, and get through Air Port security too...They can mail us our blood and urine test results later...

    May 7, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jim of Ole Miss

    Sometime I swear there are many in the extreme right that secretly wish that some terrorist would be successful in the efforts and kill Americans just so they can pin the blame on Obama and blame him exclusively.
    It's very sad that these folks have been so blinded and brainwashed that their illogical hatred of Obama has superseeded their common decency and common sense.

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

      There are plenty on the EXTREME right who not only hope for terrorists, but in are in fact terrorists and traitors themselves. ie: Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph etc etc etc

      May 7, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. newenki

    Is CNN deliberately removing comments that denounce their phony articles and propaganda?

    May 7, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • tom

      just so you could complain!.

      May 7, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • CNN Director of Propaganda

      We vill ask the qvestions here!

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

      "All terrorists can do is take lives" writes Jeff S. I'm sure that's a comfort to the families of the 3,000 who lost their lives on 9/11.

      May 7, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bob

    Agree MLONG, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” -B. Franklin

    May 7, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Sam

    I know this may sound odd, but I've had it. Every year we get some high profile bomb case that comes 'Oh so close to working', but then ultimatlly fails. I think that te GOVERNMENT fabricates this for two reasons. One, it's to tell thoe who don't want to pay taxes " Hey, look, your tax dollars are going to tis, your being saved!" And, to tell Al Qeada that "Oh goodness, they have caught somone, let's not attack." The first part I think is horrible, but the second part, a good side effect.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • tom

      "odd" isnt quite the word for your paranoia, but since you used it regarding yourself, ok.

      May 7, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • DLinLA

      ...or maybe its just true.

      May 7, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Alex

    Now that this plot has been foiled any word what article of clothing we will now have to take off for security?

    May 7, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Tin Foil Brigade Is Here

      Well, that guy in Oregon got arrested for thinking ahead and removing all of them...

      May 7, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • martin

      Probably your panties, Alex.

      May 7, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
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