Aviation News

May 7, 2012

New Underwear Bomb Plot Thwarted by CIA, But More Bombs and Terrorists Unaccounted For

This underwear bomb failed to take down a Northwest Airlines Airbus A330, but did succeed in burning its owner's genitals. (Photo by FBI, via ABC News)

The CIA has broken up a new Al Qaeda plot to blow up an airliner using explosive underwear, the Associated Press reported Monday afternoon.

An upgraded underwear bomb with an improved detonation system was seized by agents in Yemen, according to the report. A suicide bomber had been selected to carry out the plot, but the CIA says he had not yet chosen his target, and his whereabouts were unknown.

While the AP reported the attack was planned to coincide with the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death, CNN said they had been told that was not the case.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen-based organization behind the Christmas 2009 attempt to take down a Northwest Airlines jet, had allegedly improved the device which failed in that plot. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab of Nigeria was arrested after that plane landed safely in Detroit, and later convicted and sentenced to life in prison. The same group was behind a 2010 attempt to blow up cargo jets to the US.

In a vague statement issued on Monday, the FBI said it was in possession of an improvised explosive device. The AP report said the CIA brought it to the FBI for testing of the bomb’s detectability through current airport security measures. It did not contain metal and therefore would be invisible to metal detectors, but it is unclear if full body scanners would be able to see it.

UPDATE 6:30 PM ET: ABC News is reporting that the would-be bomber has been apprehended, but other bombs and potentially other bombers remain unaccounted for.

In addition, the TSA’s Federal Air Marshal Service sent “scores” of marshals to Europe last week in response to the plot. London’s Gatwick Airport may have been of special interest to the plotters, as air marshals covered every flight from Gatwick to the US, officials told ABC.

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