Al Qaeda group makes claim for attempted bombing
CTV.ca News Staff
Date: Mon. Dec. 28 2009 4:36 PM ET
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has claimed responsibility for the Christmas Day attempted bombing of a U.S. airliner, for which a Nigerian man has been charged.
In an Internet statement, the group said Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab co-ordinated with members of the group, an alliance of militants based in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
There's no word on how credible this claim is. However, the suspect taken into custody on Saturday, Abdulmutallab, is reported to have told authorities that he'd been given explosives and instructions by al Qaeda operatives in Yemen.
Abdulmutallab was placed on the U.S.'s lowest risk watch list in November, 2009, after his father expressed concerns to authorities about the behaviour of his son. People on the low-risk watch list are still allowed to be on flights transiting through the country.
The situation has forced U.S. President Barack Obama to speak to the public during his holiday in Hawaii. He said he will review the country's watch-list system.
“It's absolutely critical that we learn from this incident and take the necessary measures to prevent future acts of terrorism,” Obama said.
It was the first time he had spoken publicly about the incident.
Earlier, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the government will investigate its systems for placing suspicious travellers on watch lists and for detecting explosives before passengers board flights.
British watch list in question
British investigators are also looking into the situation. British Home Secretary Alan Johnson said police and security services are looking at whether Abdulmutallab was radicalized in Britain.
“We don't know yet whether it was a single-handed plot or (there were) other people behind it — I suspect it's the latter rather than the former,” Johnson told the BBC.
Britain's government said Monday Abdulmutallab was also placed on a U.K. watch list back in May, 2009, after he was refused a student visa.
He was placed on the list known as Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) after he applied in May to study at a bogus college. But there was apparently not enough information about Abdulmutallab's activities to move him to a watch list that would have prevented him from flying.
The names of more than half a million individuals are on the TIDE list.
Abdulmutallab, who received a degree in engineering and business finance from University College London in June 2008, applied in May, 2009, to re-enter Britain to study at another institution. But he was refused entry because officials suspected the school was not genuine.
Johnson said Monday that U.S. authorities should have been informed that Abdulmutallab had been placed on their list. But he added that he believed all procedures had been followed correctly.
The use of bogus schools to secure student visas has been identified as a weakness in Britain's immigration system. In April, one of several suspected terrorists arrested in raids in northern England was found to have a visa issued with the help of a fake college, prompting opposition lawmakers to call for a crackdown.
Last week, Britain's immigration minister Phil Woolas boasted that the government had closed some 2,000 fraudulent schools.
Meanwhile, a court hearing to determine whether the U.S. government can take Abdulmutallab's DNA has been postponed. The federal court in Detroit says a hearing scheduled for Monday has been delayed until Jan. 8. No reason was given.
It's not known why the government wants Abdulmutallub's DNA. Defence lawyer Miriam Siefer was researching whether she had a legal basis to stop it.
Abdulmutallub is being held at the federal prison in Milan, Michigan.
The lone wolf theory?
A prominent security expert says that with this week's attempted attack, it is possible security officials are witnessing a new trend in terrorism: the “lone wolf” terrorist.
Security consultant and former CSIS Agent Michel Juneau-Katsuya says the thwarted attack on Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit might signal a new era.
“We're seeing something new: an individual totally unrelated to al Qaeda who embraces the cause and ideology of al Qaeda and decides themselves to launch an attack,” Juneau-Katsuya noted on Canada AM.
“Ultimately, if that is the case, that would be the worst-case scenario for investigators,” he added.
It's relatively easy to investigate a group because groups leave bigger “footprints” as they communicate with one another as they plan attacks, Juneau-Katsuya noted. But a single individual can go under the radar for a long period of time, as he quietly plans an attack using information on building weaponry easily obtained from the Internet.
Juneau-Katsuya says a new era in terrorism might result in authorities taking a new approach to the so-called war on terror.
“We've been attacking it from a security point of view… but maybe it's time to go to the real source of terrorism: understanding the political, economic and legal justification and grievances that motivate terrorists to start attacking us,” he said.
With reports from The Associated Press