Bomber warns: there are more like me in Yemen

Al-Qa'ida claims responsibility as inquest into airport security begins

The man accused of trying to blow up an airliner over Detroit has claimed he was just one of a string of recruits trained in Yemen and poised to attack, as the regional wing of al-Qa'ida said last night that it was behind the failed Christmas Day bombing.

In an online statement, al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula – believed to be an alliance of militants based in Saudi Arabia and Yemen – said it had armed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab with an explosive device in retaliation for a crackdown on the group.

Yemeni forces, helped by US intelligence, carried out two airstrikes against al-Qa'ida operatives in the country this month – the second just a day before the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253.

Making his first public statement, three days after the Christmas Day scare, US President Barack Obama vowed to "dismantle and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us, whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere where they are plotting attacks against the US homeland. We will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable," he told reporters in Hawaii where he has been holidaying with his wife, Michelle, and daughters, Malia and Sasha.

Yesterday reports surfaced that the would-be bomber Abdulmutallab might have had an accomplice at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, where he was in transit from Lagos to Detroit.

Fellow passengers Kurt and Lori Haskell told reporters that they saw the suspect board the Northwest Airlines flight in Amsterdam on Friday morning with the help of a tall, well-dressed man aged about 50.

The US couple also suggested that the Nigerian had been allowed to board without a passport. The mystery man told airline agents that Abdulmutallab had "lost" the document, they said. "The guy said: 'He's from Sudan and we do this all the time'," Mr Haskell recalled. Dutch authorities said they would be trawling through airport CCTV footage to verify the reports. "At this moment we have no information on whether there was another guy," a military police spokesman said.

In London, the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, said he suspected that Abdulmutallab had not been working alone. "We don't know yet whether it was a single-handed plot or [whether there were] other people behind it – I suspect it's the latter rather than the former," he told the BBC. Mr Johnson confirmed that Abdulmutallab, who graduated from University College London in 2008, was refused a student visa last May because the new course he wanted to attend was bogus. It was also revealed last night that Abdulmutallab was president of the UCL Islamic society between 2006 and 2007.

With Abdulmutallab's family in Nigeria also saying they had reported his disappearance to security agencies months ago, after becoming concerned about his increasing militancy, questions were being asked as to why he still had a valid US visa. Mr Obama said he had ordered an urgent review.

American fears of a sustained terror campaign have been stoked by reports that Abdulmutallab told investigators there were more "just like me" who would soon strike.

ABC News cited FBI sources as saying that the Nigerian had spent a month in Yemen, where his training had included lessons in how to detonate the device, and how to evade airport security screening procedures by sewing the explosive PETN into the fabric of his underpants.

"He managed to penetrate all devices and modern advanced technology and security checkpoints in international airports bravely without fear of death," the al-Qa'ida statement said. He had been "relying on God and defying the large myth of American and international intelligence, and exposing how fragile they are." As well as claiming credit for the Detroit plot, the statement urged the killing of Western embassy workers in the region as part of an "all-out war on Crusaders".

Friday's attempted bombing, which would have killed all 289 people on board the plane, only failed because the 80 grams of PETN failed to detonate properly, allowing Abdulmutallab to be overpowered by passengers and crew. The militant group blamed the hitch on a technical fault.

The Obama administration admitted for the first time yesterday that the country's system for preventing terrorist attacks had failed miserably. "No one is happy or satisfied," said the Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano. She said an extensive review was under way. Mr Obama said security measures had been stepped up at airports and that air marshals had been added to planes entering and leaving the US.

The thwarted Christmas terror attack has thrown the global spotlight on to Yemen, a highly fragmented and unstable nation on the Arabian peninsula. Washington has been pressing Yemen to take tougher action against local al-Qa'ida militants for more than a year, and this month has seen two major hits. On 17 December, 30 militants were reported killed in a government airstrike which opposition groups claim killed 50 civilians, including women and children.

Then on Christmas Eve – the day before Abdulmutallab struck – Yemen's military targeted a gathering of top militant leaders. A possible fatality there was reported to be US-born radical cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki, who has been linked to the US Army officer who shot dead 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, last month. Major Nidal Malik Hasan had reportedly corresponded via email with Al-Awlaki.

That attack on the militant leaders in Yemen was what prompted the Detroit strike, according to the al-Qa'ida statement. Abdulmutallab was yesterday at a US federal prison in Milan, Michigan, awaiting trial. A court hearing scheduled for yesterday morning was postponed until 8 January at the prosecution's request. Although that prevented the public from getting further clues as to how Abdulmutallab – son of one of Nigeria's wealthiest men – became the latest face of international terrorism, further details about his alleged radicalisation emerged in emails that he apparently sent over the past six years.

The messages, also obtained by ABC News (but not, so far, quoted directly by the news organisation), apparently saw him wrestle with the question of whether his religion permitted him to attend a high-school prom, and worry about a string of low college test scores. He also expressed strong opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Timeline to a terror strike: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

Summer 2005

*Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab leaves The British School, an expensive preparatory school in Lomé, the capital of Togo, with high marks in his international baccalaureate.

*He has a reputation for Islamic scholarship and is seen as so religious by fellow pupils that they call him The Pope. Towards the end of his studies, aged 17, he becomes the leader of the Islamic Religious Society at the school.



September 2005 to June 2008

*Completes a three-year engineering and business finance degree at University College London.

*Lives in a £3m central London apartment owned by his family.

*Does the "bare minimum" of work at university, according to fellow students. He is seen to spend a lot of time praying and avoids socialising.

*Visits East London Mosque – known to host hardline preachers – at least three times.



June 2008

*Granted a multiple-entry visa by the US embassy in London allowing him to enter America.



January to July 2009

*Attends Wollongong University, a branch of an Australian public university in Dubai, for about seven months.



May 2009

*The Nigerian is denied a British visa by the UK Border Agency. In his application he claims he plans to attend a six-month course, starting in September, but authorities suspect it is a bogus establishment. He is placed on a UK immigration watch list.



August-December 2009

*Travels to Yemen, where his mother's family comes from, in search of an extremist education. He has told investigators that al-Qa'ida operatives there supplied him with the explosive device and trained him on how to detonate it.



December 2009

*He travels to Ghana on 16 December and buys a $2,831 return ticket from Lagos to Detroit via Amsterdam from a KLM office in Accra.

*On Christmas Eve he arrives in Lagos where he spends one day before boarding a plane to Amsterdam carrying a small shoulder bag, an American visa and an explosive device concealed on his body.

......... Miranda Bryant

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own