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Questions remain over foiled 'bomb plot'

Written by Richard Norton-Taylor Wednesday, 09 May 2012
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Plot revealed after strike killing al-Qaida leader in Yemen – coincidence or convenient?

 

A sceptic might be forgiven for thinking it seemed all too convenient to be a coincidence.

 

The FBI was in a possession of a bomb which had been seized by the CIA and described as a more sophisticated version of the underpants device used in a bomb plot which went wrong but might have blown up an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009.

 

The plot was announced a day after it was reported that Fahd al-Quso, a leading member of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP) based in Yemen, was killed by a US drone. Quso, who was allegedly responsible for the 2000 attack on the ship, the USS Cole, in Yemen which killed 17 American sailors, was also alleged to have been involved in the 2009 underpants plot. American media reports suggested he was likely to have been involved in any plot to strike the US.

 

Quso is said to have had replaced Anwar Al-Awlaki as head of AQAP foreign operations, an American killed by a US drone strike last year.

 

Last month, Barack Obama approved a significant escalation of drone strikes in Yemen, allowing the CIA and the US Joint Special Operations Command to attack targets engaged in activities considered suspicious, even if the identities of those who could be killed were unknown. Obama was first informed of the latest plot, also last month.

 

"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," according to Caitlin Hayden, deputy national security council spokeswoman at the White House.

 

She added: "The disruption of this IED [improvised explosive device] plot underscores the necessity of remaining vigilant against terrorism here and abroad".

 

Of the need to remain vigilant there is no doubt. However, questions about the latest "foiled plot" remain unanswered. The FBI said the device was "seized abroad". By whom? Was it a "sting" operation? Or simply the result of intelligence from an informant? - the bomb and its components were said to be in transit when they were intercepted. Where was the suspected plotter? Was he caught? Unusually, US officials declined to say whether the bomb plot had triggered specific security precautions.

 

On the contrary, Matt Chandler, spokesman for the US homeland security department, said the government had "no specific, credible, information regarding an active terrorist plot against the US at this time".

 

Certainly, this latest "bomb plot", involving a device said to include no metal component, will prove useful in testing airport security levels. AQAP operatives have proved adept in the past in devising innovative bombs. And it remains true that a bomb, even a small bomb, exploded inside an aircraft, would be likely to cause more deaths and damage, certainly have much more propaganda value, than a similar bomb exploded on land.

 

Hayden said Obama had been informed of the plot last month by John Brennan, the president's homeland security and counter-terrorism adviser, and was regularly updated. "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 security and intelligence may think no more need be said. Others may disagree.

 
 
Source: The Guardian
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