January 2nd, 2010
12:20 PM ET
12 years ago

Obama ties Nigerian terror suspect to al Qaeda

(CNN) - President Barack Obama linked the man behind a botched Christmas Day airline bombing to an al Qaeda affiliate based in Yemen on Saturday.

The president pledged that everyone involved in the attack would be held accountable. He also highlighted his administration's attempts to crack down on extremist enclaves in Yemen, and reiterated his longstanding promise to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat" al Qaeda.

Obama has been criticized by some political opponents for not responding more aggressively to a botched December 25 attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines passenger jet en route from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit, Michigan.

Authorities say 23-year-old Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab tried to ignite explosives smuggled aboard the plane in his underwear. Obama confirmed Saturday that AbdulMutallab recently traveled to Yemen and that "it appears that he joined an affiliate of al Qaeda."

The group "al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula" apparently trained AbdulMutallab, "equipped him with ... explosives and directed him to attack that plane headed for America," Obama said.

"This is not the first time this group has targeted us," Obama noted. Recently, he said, "they have bombed Yemeni government facilities and Western hotels, restaurants and embassies - including our embassy in 2008."

"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 Qaeda terrorists," he said.

Obama promised that "all those involved in the attempted act of terrorism on Christmas must know - you too will be held to account," Obama said in his weekly address.

"Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred, and ... we will do whatever it takes to defeat them and defend our country."

Obama, currently on vacation with his family in Hawaii, spoke with Homeland Security Assistant John Brennan on Thursday to review preliminary assessments of the federal government's inability to prevent the Christmas Day attack.

AbdulMutallab had a valid, two-year multiple-entry visa into the United States - despite the fact that his father had twice spoken to at least one representative of the CIA at the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria about his son's increasingly extremist views.

A report detailing that information was prepared but not circulated outside the agency, a reliable source told CNN. Had that information been shared, AbdulMutallab might have been denied access to the flight, the source said.

The State Department announced Thursday it was directing American embassies around the world to include information on whether a person has a U.S. visa when they send special cables to Washington containing information on potentially suspicious individuals.

Obama also recently spoke with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to receive an update on a federal review of "detection capabilities and ... enhanced security measures" put in place since the attempted bombing.

A new Transportation Security Administration directive requires airlines to physically pat down all passengers boarding planes bound for the United States and inspect their carry-on bags.

The directive also gives airlines the discretion to take other measures to prevent people from secretly assembling or igniting bombs on aircraft. Those measures include prohibiting people from keeping pillows or blankets on their laps during the final hour of a flight.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. BILL, WI

    REALLY!!!! al-Qaeda is in Yemen! And they have known about that for sometime! Then why was this administration willing to send 95 Gitmo detainees to Yemen. Even knowing from the past experience of about 20% of all released detainees go back to their old habits. In Jan of 2009 Obama signed the order to close Gitmo to appease the ACLU and to soften the criticism of the EU. Fast forward to 2010 the ACLU is still critical of the US (no surprise), and it is all to apparent that the EU suffers from NIMBY disease. That brings us to option 2 establish GITMO North and hope that everyone is happy.

    January 2, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  2. Bren

    Phew!!!!.........I know that I am relieved that Obama FINALLY figured this out---when the MAJORITY of the country knew this over a week ago.

    PLEASE resign Obama-–and go and find a community to organize.

    And, PLEASE take the worthless, corrupt, anti-American, anti-capitalist, liars and manipulators--Pelosi, Reid, Holder, Napolitano, Geitner, Frank, Dodd, Rangel, etc. etc. etc.--with you!!!!!

    January 2, 2010 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  3. Donald, Cameron, NC

    Ok, so what are you going to do about to hold all parties "accountable"?

    Talk or take action? Its time to send a clear signal to those in Yemen –any attack on this country and/or its citizens will result in immediate and unequivocal destruction of your camps, organization, and supporters!!!

    January 2, 2010 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  4. Josefina Brown

    Al Qaeda? Who would have thought.

    January 2, 2010 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  5. terry,va

    Al Qaeda did this? Really? Is this still a "man made disaster"? Did you finally crawl out from under your desk or did you realize this on the golf course? We have been at war with your Muslims buddies for years. Are you finally going to side with us? If so, forget the closing of Gitmo. We will see if this is another speech after you have felt the wrath of the American people (polls) or if you are actually going to do something.

    January 2, 2010 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  6. michael armstrong sr. TX.

    Its great that the president is starting to tie things together now we just got to get him to tie together that it's the radical Muslims that were fighting and to quit messing with Christine's .

    January 2, 2010 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  7. indiana voter

    This is something that every one else in the world already knew and were saying. It is good to to see the President finally saying the same thing, after he avoided it for so long.

    January 2, 2010 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  8. DAVE

    wow.... over a week after Al-Queda claimed responsibility for the plan, our president finally will admit it.... whew i feel so much safer..... if the explosives had detonated on this plane what would our outstretched handed president call it???? A MAN MADE DISASTER, or a MISUNDERSTANDING, or better yet a MISUNDERSTOOD YOUNG MAN WHO WAS LONELY???? the word "CLUELESS" keeps coming to mind when i think of POTUS and his intelligence heads that have been appointed by him... Mr. President you dodged a bullet when this explosive failed.... you and your administration have gone 180 degrees compared to the way President Bush kept our country safe and you are now reaping the results..... instead of extending one of your hands maybe you should put both of them out there, but i think it would be hard for you to shank your tee shot....... fire everyone you have in place and let republicans appoint the key personnel to keep our country safe....

    January 2, 2010 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  9. Jim

    Pres. Obama said that we are war with this group then use the miltiary and wipe them out. If today's liberals were in charge in the 1940's Japan and Germany would have won WWII

    January 2, 2010 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  10. Terry from West Texas

    Let us be realistic about the "war" on terror. This is not a war; it is a police action. There is no terrorist nation that has put an army in the field ready for combat. Terrorism is violent organized crime. Unlike most organized crime, the goal is not profit. The goal is to disrupt our lives and intimidate us. The idea is to make us reluctant to meddle in the affairs of Muslim nations. This is not a war.

    More Americans have been shot dead by other Americans than have been killed by terrorists in this century. More Americans died from the flu this year than were killed by terrorists. More Americans died from automobile accidents, drug overdoses, alcohol related deaths, and tobacco related deaths this year than have been killed by terrorists in the last century.

    We need to prioritize.

    January 2, 2010 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  11. howie

    Unfortunately, I have little confidence that Obama will do anything serious to stop these attacks. So far lot of talk and little action. Just look at north korea, iran, yemen and others. Talk but little action. They know they have litttle to fear. Sad sad sad.

    January 2, 2010 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  12. Pat F

    NO! You don't say! Not an isolated incident? Was it a – dare I use the words – terrorist attack?

    Janet Napolitano's "the system worked" will go down as this Administration's version of "you're doing a heckava job, Brownie".

    January 2, 2010 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
1 2