US aware 'Nigerian' prepared for terror attack

BBC News | December 30, 2009

The US was aware that "a Nigerian" in Yemen was being prepared for a terrorist attack - weeks before an attempted bombing on a US plane.

ABC News and the New York Times say there was intelligence to this effect, but its source is unclear.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab flew from Lagos to Amsterdam before changing planes for a flight to Detroit on which he allegedly tried to detonate a bomb.

The Netherlands is to introduce body scanners on US flights within weeks.

Dutch Interior Minister Guusje Ter Horst said Mr Abdulmutallab did not raise any concerns as he passed through Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport to board the flight.

She said the airport would be able to use body scanners on all flights to the US from the airport in three weeks, adding that they would be a permanent fixture.

Obama denounces lapses

US President Barack Obama has said security failures were unacceptable.

He has said a systemic failure allowed Mr Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian, to fly to the US on 25 December despite family members warning officials in November that he had extremist views.

The source of the intelligence about "a Nigerian" in Yemen was reported as coming from the Yemeni government or from US intercept intelligence, which can refer to intercepted e-mail and phone calls.

Mr Obama said he wanted to know why a warning weeks ago from Mr Abdulmutallab's father did not lead to the accused being placed on a no-fly list.

"We need to learn from this episode and act quickly to fix flaws in the system," Mr Obama said.

"When our government has information on a known extremist and that information is not shared and acted upon as it should have been, so that this extremist boards a plane with dangerous explosives that could have cost nearly 300 lives, a systemic failure has occurred."

Some passengers and crew tackled Mr Abdulmutallab in his seat about 20 minutes before landing in Detroit as he allegedly tried to detonate explosives in his underwear.

Following a preliminary investigation, the Dutch interior minister described the bomb as professionally made but executed in an "amateurish" way.

Mr Abdulmutallab has reportedly told investigators that he trained in Yemen with al-Qaeda.

He was living in Yemen from August to early December, the foreign ministry said, according to an earlier report from the official Saba news agency.

He had a visa to study Arabic at an institute in the capital Sana'a.

CIA spokesman George Little earlier said the agency had become aware of Mr Abdulmutallab in November when his father, who had lost contact with him, visited the US embassy to seek help in finding him.

He said the agency had ensured the Nigerian's name was added to the government's terrorist database, and was forwarded to the National Counterterrorism Center.

Nigerian airports 'safe'

Meanwhile, Nigeria has rejected suggestions that its airport security was lax in allowing Mr Abdulmutallab to begin his journey from Lagos.

Nigeria's Information Minister Dora Akunyili told the BBC: "We are not disorganised and our airports are very safe."

Ms Akunyili said CCTV footage from Lagos airport showed Mr Abdulmutallab from check-in through to boarding the plane.

Lagos airport security has been tightened since the incident.

UK Transport Secretary Lord Adonis said it would be irresponsible if Britain did not carefully review its airport security, but stressed that President Obama's comments about flawed checks were directed at American security processes.

"We believe our security processes are robust - and with... additional checks to and from the United States, I believe it is perfectly safe and responsible for people to continue travelling," Lord Adonis said.