US President Barack Obama yesterday for the first time accused an al-Qaeda affiliate of arming and training a young Nigerian man for a thwarted suicide mission to blow up a US airliner.
Obama, in his weekly radio and video address, promised to hold the group, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, to account for the attack, declaring the US was at war with a “far-reaching network of violence and hatred.”
The president’s vacation in his home state of Hawaii has been interrupted by the ramifications of the failed attack on a Northwest jet heading for Detroit on Christmas Day.
Obama has reviewed preliminary results of probes he has ordered into the attack, and said details were becoming clear about the 23-year-old Nigerian suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
“We know that he traveled to Yemen, a country grappling with crushing poverty and deadly insurgencies,” Obama said in his address, posted on the White House website early yesterday.
“It appears that he joined an affiliate of al-Qaeda, and that this group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula-trained him, equipped him with those explosives and directed him to attack that plane headed for America,” Obama said.
Previously, US officials have not said publicly that the Northwest attack was the work of al-Qaeda, though had noted there was a “linkage” with the terror group.
The Arabian peninsula franchise of al-Qaeda had on Monday claimed the failed Christmas bombing of a jet in a statement picked up by US monitors.
Abdulmutallab is accused of trying to blow up the plane as it approached Detroit on a flight from Amsterdam, by setting off explosives stitched into his underwear. The attempt failed when he was stopped by passengers.
Obama said that because of past attacks by the al-Qaeda affiliate he had, even before the Christmas Day attempt, stepped up US cooperation with insurgency-scarred Yemen.
“Training camps have been struck, leaders eliminated, plots disrupted,” he said in the address. “And all those involved in the attempted act of terrorism on Christmas must know — you too will be held to account.”
Obama also put the Northwest attack in the context of the wider threat from terrorism, following complaints from some Republicans that he has not adopted the “war on terrorism” formulation of his predecessor, former US president George W. Bush.
He noted that it was almost a year since he came to office and delivered his inaugural address.
“On that day I also made it very clear-our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred, and that we will do whatever it takes to defeat them and defend our country, even as we uphold the values that have always distinguished America among nations,” Obama said.
On Thursday, the US director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, warned his staff that al-Qaeda attacks were sure to get more “cunning.”
“Al-Qaeda and its affiliate organizations, as well as individual suicide terrorists, have observed our defenses and are designing future attacks to circumvent them,” he said. “These attacks will be even harder to uncover, interpret and stop.”
In between recreational activities with his family and friends on Friday, Obama consulted top national security advisors to discuss two reviews of the thwarted bid to bomb the jet.
He spoke to National Security Council chief of staff Denis McDonough and his top anti-terror advisor John Brennan, a White House official said on condition of anonymity.
Angered by how narrowly tragedy was averted in a country still scarred by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Obama was to spend the weekend poring over the preliminary reports of two probes he demanded into the Christmas Day attack.
The president plans to meet heads of intelligence agencies and relevant government departments on Tuesday in Washington to discuss the findings.
Obama has ordered one assessment of the no-fly list system and a separate probe into how Abdulmutallab sneaked an explosive device past security at Amsterdam airport onto a plane bound for the US.
TARNISHED LEGACY: Woodrow Wilson served as the university’s president before becoming the US’ 28th leader, but his racism was ‘significant and consequential’ Princeton University is removing former US president Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school and one of its residential colleges after trustees concluded that the 28th president’s “racist thinking and policies” made him “an inappropriate namesake.” The Ivy League school’s trustees made the decision on Friday, according to a statement on Saturday. It comes at a time of widespread rethinking of the US’ racial legacy. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, energized by a series of high-profile deaths of black Americans, has resulted in the removal of Confederate monuments, flags and symbols of racism across the US. Deleting Wilson’s name at Princeton
‘FULLY ENCLOSED’: Residents of Anxin County would be confined to their homes and would only be allowed out once a day to buy necessities such as food and medicine China yesterday imposed a strict lockdown on nearly half a million people near the capital to contain a fresh COVID-19 cluster as authorities warned the outbreak was still “severe and complicated.” After China largely brought the virus under control, hundreds have been infected in Beijing and cases have emerged in Hebei Province. Health officials said that Anxin County — about 150km from Beijing — would be “fully enclosed and controlled,” the same strict measures imposed at the height of the pandemic in the city of Wuhan earlier this year. Only one person from each family would be allowed to go out once a
Japan said it opposed changes to the G7 nations as it pushed back against a reform plan by US President Donald Trump that would have rival South Korea this year join in an expanded meeting. Tokyo has told the US it stands against South Korea’s participation on the grounds of differences in policy on China and North Korea, Kyodo News reported this weekend, citing more than one source related to Japanese and US diplomacy. Japan also wants to maintain its status as the only Asian country in the group, the news agency added. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga yesterday told reporters that
‘CHAPITOS’: An ex-DEA agent said the sons of the former cartel head are engaged in a battle for control, with the health of the man temporarily in charge a factor The fight for control of drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s legacy spilled into the open on Thursday after a gun battle between rival Mexican gangs left 16 dead, authorities said. The 16 men, heavily armed and wearing bulletproof vests, died in a six-hour running shootout near the rural town of Tepuche in northwestern Sinaloa province. “A van with seven bodies was located” after an initial clash, while nine bodies were discovered following a second exchange, Sinaloa Minister of Security Cristobal Castaneda told reporters. Castaneda said that Wednesday’s clash near Tepuche, 25km from the capital of Sinaloa, Culiacan, was “part of a struggle