News of a thwarted bomb plot broke Monday afternoon, around the same time as the anniversary of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden last year. The plot was discovered before it was put into action, and a nonmetallic explosive device resembling the one used in the failed Christmas Day attack on a Detroit-bound plane in 2009 was recovered and is being examined.
The uncovered explosive device is reportedly an upgrade of the one used in that attempted airline attack two and a half years ago. The newer version was also designed to be used in the attacker’s underwear and had an upgraded detonation system. It is not yet clear if the device could have passed through airport security — specifically, the new body scanners in use. Although, of note, such body scanners are not used in places where the bomb likely would have originated.
The remains of the underwear bomb that failed to detonate correctly in December 2009. (Photo: FBI, via ABC News)
According to officials, it is believed that leaders of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen instructed a suicide bomber to board a flight of his choice to the U.S. with the bomb hidden under his clothes. The would-be bomber had yet to purchase a plane ticket, however, when the CIA seized the bomb in a Middle Eastern country outside Yemen within the last 10 days. The alleged attacker is said to be alive, but it is unknown if he is in foreign custody.
It was revealed Tuesday that the plot was foiled by an undercover agent working for the CIA and other intelligence agencies who infiltrated an al-Qaeda bomb cell in Yemen. In addition, reports on Tuesday noted that a drone strike in Yemen on Sunday that killed two members of al-Qaeda was connected to the operation to thwart AQAP’s second underwear bombing attempt. One of the casualties of that strike was top al-Qaeda figure Fahd Mohammed Ahmed Quso — linked to the planned 2009 Christmas Day attack.
AQAP has increased its reach over Yemen throughout the last year, seizing large areas of territory in the south while political turmoil engulfed the country. Since February, when President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi took office and officially ended Ali Abdullah Saleh’s rule, militants have escalated their assaults. On Monday, al-Qaeda linked terrorists raided a Yemeni military position, killing at least 32 government soldiers.