Al-Qaeda, the infamous terrorist group behind the September 11 US bombings, in which thousands died, on Monday claimed responsibility for the failed Christmas Day attack in which Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up an airliner as it landed in Detroit.
According to an Internet statement on Islamist websites, the organisation said it had given "Umar Farouk al-Nigiri" (which translates to ‘the Nigerian')
, a "technically advanced device" which however failed to work at full capacity.
The group claimed the attack was in reaction to U.S. attacks on its Yemen arm.
The news corroborates earlier statements credited to Mr. Muttalab during his preliminary interrogation by US authorities
Also, on Monday, the United States District Court for the East District of Michigan yesterday cancelled its first hearing on a case filed by the FBI against Mr. Mutallab.
No reason was given for the cancellation of the hearing, which was scheduled to hold before U.S. District Judge Paul Borman.
"The hearing has been cancelled," said U.S. Attorney's spokesperson Gina Balaya. "I was not given a reason for the cancellation."
But media reports state that prosecutors are aiming to get a search warrant to enable them to collect DNA from Mr. Abdulmutallab, who is being held in a federal prison in Michigan. This is presumably to determine if Mr. Abdulmutallab has links to other crimes or terror plots prior to his arrest on December 25.
In an affidavit dated December 26, 2009, Special Agent James Peissig of the FBI submitted the facts of the case against Mr. Abdulmutallab as follows: "that Mr. Mutallab was in violation of US Code Title 18, Section 32, which is the destruction of an aircraft or aircraft facilities, or the willful attempt to do so."
Bail for Mr. Abdulmutallab is scheduled to be set at a January 8 hearing in Detroit.
Tracing the failure
Meanwhile, U.S. and British authorities admitted that lapses in visa and airport security systems may have allowed Mr. Abdulmutallab's preparation for his plot to go unnoticed.
In a television interview on NBC's Today Show, when asked if the system "failed miserably," U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano replied: "It did. And that's why we are asking - ‘how did this individual get on the plane? Why wasn't the explosive material detected? What do we need to do to change?" The last question referred to the security watch list rules.
British Home Secretary Alan Johnson confirmed that Mr. Abdulmutallab had been put on a U.K. watch list after he was refused a student visa following an application to study at a bogus college. But he was still able to get a U.S. visa, which was issued in London.
Also, an investigative report by America's CBS News yesterday revealed that the State Department system designed to keep track of active U.S. visas twice failed to reveal that Mr, Abdulmutallab had been issued an active visa allowing him multiple entries into America.
"According to a law enforcement source, the first failure came on November 19, 2009, the very same day (Mr.) Abdulmutallab father's, Dr. Umaru Mutallab, a prominent banking official in Nigeria, expressed deep concern to officials at the U.S. Embassy in Abjua, Nigeria, that his 23-year-old son had fallen under the influence of "religious extremists" in Yemen," the report read in part.
According to CBS News, "the second failure to flag an active visa belonging to Abdulmuttalab occurred the very next day - November 20 - in Washington after Dr. Mutallab's concerns were forwarded to officials there. It was only after the Christmas Day terror attack in Detroit that U.S. officials learned that Abdulmuttalab had been issued a visa by the U.S. Embassy in London valid from June 16, 2008 through June 12, 2010."
Mr. Abdulmutallab was on a broad U.S. terrorist watch list but he was not designated for special screening measures or placed on a no-fly list because of a dearth of specific information about his activities, Ms. Napolitano said.
A White House spokesman said President Barack Obama had ordered a review of how suspects' names are added to counter-terrorism watch lists.
Amsterdam airport speaks
Officials of the Schipol Airport in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where Mr. Muttalab's flight passed enroute to Detroit, also spoke on the issue.
The CNBC reports that "spokesperson Marianne Debie confirmed that the reason the airport does not use scanners on American flights is because the "US government did not approve the use of the machines for American passengers."
Ms. Debie also said there is strong opposition to widespread use of the machines by the European Union due to privacy concerns. Germany refuses to use the machines, for instance.
She revealed that following the incident, the airport now has 17 scanners, and is working to obtain advanced scanners that are more anonymous. Ms. Debie also said Schipol airport wants to use the scanners everywhere but scanning is voluntary for those subjected to it; officials believe it should not be voluntary.