Al Qaeda plot: Hillary says terrorists keep trying
New Delhi: The US has foiled an attempt by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to blow up a passenger plane and seized a sophisticated explosive device bearing the "hallmarks" of the 2009 underwear bomb, officials said.
Commenting on the plot, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: "The device did not appear to pose a threat to the public air service but the plot itself indicated that the terrorists keep trying to devise more and more perverse and terrible ways to kill innocent people”
During a joint press conference with Indian Minister of External Affairs SM Krishna, Hillary said the alleged plot was a "reminder why we have to remain vigilant at home and abroad in protecting our nation and in protecting friendly nations ".
The plot was foiled before it threatened any Americans, and no airliners were at risk, a US official said.
A non-metallic explosive device that could have passed through airport security unnoticed like the one used in the failed attempt to bomb a Detroit-bound jet in 2009 by underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was recovered, the official said.
It was meant for use by a suicide bomber, he said.
"As a result of close cooperation with our security and intelligence partners overseas, an Improvised Explosive Device designed to carry out a terrorist attack has been seized abroad," the FBI said in a statement.
The FBI said it currently had the possession of the IED and was 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 in attempted terrorist attacks, including against aircraft and for targeted assassinations," the statement said.
US President Barack Obama was informed about the plot in April, and the attempt "underscores the necessity of remaining vigilant against terrorism here and abroad”, the White House said.
"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," Deputy Spokesperson of National Security Council Caitlin Hayden said.
"The disruption of this IED plot underscores the necessity of remaining vigilant against terrorism here and abroad," Hayden said, adding that President Obama thanked all the concerned authorities for their "outstanding" efforts in foiling the bid.
The news of the plot emerged shortly after the US marked anniversary of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. It also comes a day after killing of Fahd al-Quso, a senior leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen.
The AQAP, primarily active in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, is considered the most active of al Qaeda`s branches.
"What this incident makes clear is that this country has to continue to remain vigilant against those that would seek to attack this country. And we will do everything necessary to keep America safe," Defence Secretary Leon Panetta soon after news of the plot broke.
Making it clear that the device "never presented a threat to public safety", the FBI said the government was "working closely with its international partners" to address the various concerns associated with the device.
Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security has said it has no specific and credible information regarding an active terrorist plot against the US at this time, although it continues to monitor move 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 travelling public," department`s spokesperson Matt Chandler said.
"These layers include threat and vulnerability analysis, pre-screening 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," Chandler said.
Earlier in the day, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chairman Joe Lieberman was briefed by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and White House Counterterrorism Advisor John Brennan about the foiled plot.
"The most important fact is that terrorists planning to kill innocent people were stopped before anyone was in danger," Lieberman said, adding that both Secretary Napolitano and Brennan assured him that country`s intelligence and counterterrorism agencies, with the help of their international counterparts, successfully foiled the bid.
Lieberman said he was told by them that no public announcement of al Qaeda`s this plot was made in order to protect the ongoing counter-terrorism operations by the US.
The Senator also said he was also informed that there was "no evidence" to prove that the plot was "tied to" the first anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden.
(With PTI inputs)
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