Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Al-Qaeda claim Nigerian bomb suspect

Al-Qaeda has claimed the failed December 25 bombing of a US-bound aircraft in a statement posted on an Islamist website yesterday, US monitoring organisations said.

The statement, which was accompanied by a picture of the suspected would-be bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, boasted that the "Nigerian brother" broke all security barriers for his operation, dispelling the "great myth" of American intelligence, SITE Intelligence said.

He used explosives technology developed by the Mujahedeen in Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's (AQAP) "manufacturing department," it said.

AQAP acknowledged that a "technical fault" caused the failure in the operation," the statement added.

Another US monitoring group, Intelcentre, also reported the same posting.

Meanwhile, in response to the failed Christmas Day terrorist attack on Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit, the Department of Homeland Security has issued a new set of security measures for the Transportation Security Administration, airports and airlines -- especially foreign carriers -- to follow.

While domestic passengers "should not expect to see the same thing at every airport," TSA said heightened security procedures would include increased vigilance and visibility that may (or may not) take the form of gate screening, added presence of law enforcement officers and canine teams, and other activities.

International travellers, however, are sure to notice a difference. New security measures for international flights heading toward the U.S., TSA said, will require increased gate screening "including pat-downs and bag searches" and a variety of in-flight restrictions.

"During certain portions of the flight," passengers may be asked to put away their personal items, turn off electronic equipment, keep blankets, pillows and personal items off their laps, and stay seated, the agency said.

While TSA's posted Guidance for Passengers gives only general information about the new in-flight restrictions, specific details have been posted on several airport and airline Web sites.

Virgin Atlantic Airlines is telling travellers heading to the U.S. that there will be "extra-screening of passengers and hand baggage at the gate immediately before boarding."

Air Canada posted notice that, under the TSA-imposed rules, "during the final hour of flight, customers must remain seated, and will not be allowed to access carry-on baggage, or have personal belongings or other items on their laps."

Canada's WestJet notified passengers that these and other new procedures, such as the limit of one passenger per bag, are scheduled to be in effect until at least December 30.

In a memo sent to airlines (but not posted on the TSA Web site), airlines flying to the U.S. were instructed to turn off any in-flight entertainment systems with embedded maps or GPS programmes showing the plane's exact location. Pilots and crew members were also told not to make announcements identifying landmarks below.

Rolled out during one of the busiest travel days of the year, the new rules immediately caused confusion, cancellations and delays at many airports.

Some U.S-bound flights from London's Heathrow and other British airports were delayed up to five hours.

On Sunday morning, a spokesperson for Vancouver International Airport reported delays of 30 to 90 minutes for flights destined to the U.S.

At Toronto Pearson International Airport, spokesperson Patricia Krale reported "significant delays for passengers on their way to the U.S. as everyone familiarises himself with the new regulations."


Related stories: Family of Nigerian bomb suspect issues statement

Video report on Nigerian terrorist attempt to blow up U.S. airliner

Nigerian tries to blow up U.S. airliner

Nigerian terrorist is son of former First Bank chairman

Training school belonging to Islamic radical group Boko Haram found in Taraba, Nigeria

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