Barack Obama says al-Qaida behind botched Christmas Day bomb plot

US president reveals would-be suicide bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, trained by terror group affiliate in Yemen

US president Barack Obama has accused al-Qaida of being behind the botched plot to blow up a transatlantic passenger jet on Christmas Day.

He said it appeared that the alleged would-be suicide bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had been trained by an al-Qaida affiliate in Yemen.

"We're learning more about the suspect," Obama said in his weekly radio and internet address today.

"We know that he travelled to Yemen, a country grappling with crushing poverty and deadly insurgencies. It appears that he joined an affiliate of al-Qaida, and that this group – al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula – trained him, equipped him with those explosives and directed him to attack that plane headed for America," the president added.

The botched bombing of Northwest Flight 253 on 25 December has prompted a major review of US national security, specifically how the intelligence agencies failed to prevent Abdulmutallab from boarding the Detroit-bound airliner despite warnings about the risk he posed.

Officials have said Abdulmutallab's father warned the US Embassy in Nigeria that his son had drifted into extremism in Yemen, a haven for al-Qaida.

But details on where Abdulmutallab had been and what some of his plans were had not been shared among agencies.

The president said the US would be strengthening its ties with the Yemeni government to tackle al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

"This is not the first time this group has targeted us," Obama said. "In recent years, they have bombed Yemeni government facilities and Western hotels, restaurants and embassies, including our embassy in 2008, killing one American."

"So, as president, I've made it a priority to strengthen our partnership with the Yemeni government – training and equipping their security forces, sharing intelligence and working with them to strike al-Qaida terrorists."

The US provided Yemen with $67m in training and support under the Pentagon's counterterrorism programme last year.

"Training camps have been struck, leaders eliminated, plots disrupted," said Obama. "And all those involved in the attempted act of terrorism on Christmas must know you too will be held to account."

Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian former student, has been charged with trying to blow up flight 253.


David Batty and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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