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CIA thwarts new al-Qaida underwear bomb plot

(China Daily)

10:01, May 08, 2012

WASHINGTON — The CIA thwarted an ambitious plot by al-Qaida's affiliate in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner using a bomb with a sophisticated new design around the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, The Associated Press has learned.

The plot involved an upgrade of the underwear bomb that failed to detonate aboard a jetliner over Detroit on Christmas 2009. This new bomb was also designed to be used in a passenger's underwear, but this time al-Qaida developed a more refined detonation system, U.S. officials said.

The FBI is examining the latest bomb to see whether it could have passed through airport security and brought down an airplane, officials said. They said the device did not contain metal, meaning it probably could have passed through an airport metal detector. But it was not clear whether new body scanners used in many airports would have detected it.

There were no immediate plans to change security procedures at U.S. airports.

The would-be suicide bomber, based in Yemen, had not yet picked a target or bought a plane ticket when the CIA stepped in and seized the bomb, officials said. It's not immediately clear what happened to the alleged bomber.

White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said President Barack Obama learned about the plot in April and was assured the device posed no threat to the public.

"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," Hayden said.

The operation unfolded even as the White House and Department of Homeland Security assured the American public that they knew of no al-Qaida plots against the U.S. around the anniversary of bin Laden's death. The operation was carried out over the past few weeks, officials said.

"We have no credible information that terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida, are plotting attacks in the U.S. to coincide with the anniversary of bin Laden's death," White House press secretary Jay Carney said on April 26.

On May 1, the Department of Homeland Security said, "We have no indication of any specific, credible threats or plots against the U.S. tied to the one-year anniversary of bin Laden's death."

The White House did not explain those statements Monday.

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