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Page last updated at 22:56 GMT, Wednesday, 30 December 2009

US aware 'Nigerian' prepared for terror attack

Photograph of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab supplied by US officials (28 December 2009)
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has been charged over the incident

The US was aware that "a Nigerian" in Yemen was being prepared for a terrorist attack - weeks before an attempted bombing on a US plane.

ABC News and the New York Times say there was intelligence to this effect, but its source is unclear.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab flew from Lagos to Amsterdam before changing planes for a flight to Detroit on which he allegedly tried to detonate a bomb.

The Netherlands is to introduce body scanners on US flights within weeks.

Dutch Interior Minister Guusje Ter Horst said Mr Abdulmutallab did not raise any concerns as he passed through Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport to board the flight.

She said the airport would be able to use body scanners on all flights to the US from the airport in three weeks. Nigerian authorities also said they would start using the machines next year.

Obama denounces lapses

Ms Ter Horst said that though the US had previously not wanted the scanners to be used because of privacy concerns, Washington had now agreed that "all possible measures will be used on flights to the US".

"It is not exaggerating to say the world has escaped a disaster," she said.

US FLIGHT ADVICE
Only one item of hand luggage, including items bought airside
BA and Virgin Atlantic not charging to check in extra hand luggage
Check in wrapped presents
Passengers subject to "pat-down" searches before boarding, on top of usual security checks
Customers to remain seated during final hour of flight
No access to hand luggage and a ban on leaving possessions or blankets on laps during this hour

US President Barack Obama has acknowledged unacceptable security failures.

He said a systemic failure allowed Mr Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian, to fly to the US on 25 December despite family members warning officials in November that he had extremist views.

The source of the intelligence about "a Nigerian" in Yemen was reported as coming from the Yemeni government or from US intercept intelligence, which can refer to intercepted e-mail and phone calls.

Mr Obama said he wanted to know why a warning weeks ago from Mr Abdulmutallab's father did not lead to the accused being placed on a no-fly list.

"We need to learn from this episode and act quickly to fix flaws in the system," Mr Obama said.

Some passengers and crew tackled Mr Abdulmutallab in his seat about 20 minutes before landing in Detroit as he allegedly tried to detonate explosives in his underwear.

President Barack Obama: "Our security is at stake and lives are at stake"

Initial investigations found he had used the explosive PETN and a syringe filled with liquid.

The Dutch interior minister described the bomb as professionally made but executed in an "amateurish" way.

She said Mr Abdulmutallab had passed through standard security checks, including a metal detector and a hand baggage scan, without raising suspicions.

Nigerian airports 'safe'

Mr Abdulmutallab has reportedly told investigators that he trained in Yemen with al-Qaeda.

He was living in Yemen from August to early December, the foreign ministry said, according to an earlier report from the official Saba news agency.

He had a visa to study Arabic at an institute in the capital, Sanaa.

Map

The CIA became aware of Mr Abdulmutallab in November when his father, who had lost contact with him, visited the US embassy to seek help in finding him.

Meanwhile, Nigeria has rejected suggestions that its airport security was lax in allowing Mr Abdulmutallab to begin his journey from Lagos.

Information Minister Dora Akunyili told the BBC: "We are not disorganised and our airports are very safe."

Ms Akunyili said CCTV footage from Lagos airport showed Mr Abdulmutallab from check-in through to boarding the plane.

Lagos airport security has been tightened since the incident.

Civil Aviation Authority head Harold Demuren said the Nigerian airports authority had begun the process of acquiring full body scanners and would start using them at all international airports in the New Year.

However, a 2009 US state department report said the Nigerian government had already approved the installation of body scanners with US funding in Nigeria's four international airports earlier this year, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Somali arrest

It also emerged on Wednesday that a Somali man had tried to board a commercial flight from the Somali capital, Mogadishu, in November, carrying powdered chemicals, liquid and a syringe - materials that resembled those used by Mr Abdulmutallab.

The plane was due to fly to the northern Somali city of Hargeisa, then to Djibouti and Dubai.

The African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia confirmed that the man was arrested before boarding the 13 November flight. He is in custody in Mogadishu.

US officials have learned about the Somali case and are investigating any possible links with the attempted attack in Detroit, AP reported.

Somalia's UN-backed government is fighting an Islamist insurgency and only controls a small part of Mogadishu, including the area around the airport.

There are daily flights to neighbouring countries such as Djibouti and Kenya.



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