Al Qaeda: We Planned Flight 253 Bombing

A publicity banner from the Yemeni al Qaeda Internet statement claiming responsibility for the attack on a U.S. airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day. Yemeni al Qaeda Web site

Updated at 4:10 p.m. EST

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on Monday claimed responsibility for the attack on a U.S. airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day, saying it was retaliation for a U.S. operation against the group in Yemen.

Federal authorities met Monday to reassess the U.S. system of terror watchlists to determine how to avoid the type of lapse that allowed a man with explosives to board the flight in Amsterdam even though he was flagged as a possible terrorist.

In a statement posted on the Internet, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab coordinated with members of the group, an alliance of militants based in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Yemeni forces, helped by U.S. intelligence, carried out two airstrikes against al Qaeda operatives in the country this month. The second one was a day before Abdulmutallab attempted to bring down a Northwest Airlines flight as it prepared to land in Detroit.

The group said Abdulmutallab used explosives manufactured by al Qaeda members. "He managed to penetrate all devices and modern advanced technology and security checkpoints in international airports bravely without fear of death," the group said in the statement, "relying on God and defying the large myth of American and international intelligence, and exposing how fragile they are, bringing their nose to the ground, and making them regret all what they spent on security technology."

The group also released what it said was a photo of Abdulmutallab, smiling in a white shirt and white Islamic skullcap, overlaid on a graphic showing a plane taking off. In a second version of the same photo, he is shown with the Al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula banner in the background.

The claim of responsibility was dated Saturday but posted on Monday on a Web site frequently used by militants to disseminate their messages.

President Barack Obama said Monday he has ordered a review of the nation's watchlist system and of its air safety regulations.

"It's absolutely critical that we learn from this incident and take the necessary measures to prevent future acts of terrorism," Obama said in his first public remarks since the attack on the U.S-bound airliner.

Abdulmutallab is currently in a federal prison in Michigan, transferred there Sunday by federal marshals after being treated in a hospital for burns sustained during the attack, reports CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod.

A federal judge in Detroit postponed until Jan. 8 a hearing on a request by the government to obtain a DNA sample from Abdulmutallab. No reason was given.

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Al Qaeda's Yemen Branch Rising in Stature
Many Questions, Few Answers in Terror Case
U.S. Failed to Catch Suspect's Active Visa
Abdulmutallab Shocks Family, Friends
Abdulmutallab Was on U.K. Watch List
U.S. Reviewing Security, Red Flag Tactics
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Who Is Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab?
Tightening Security in U.S.
Expert: Yemen Ties Could be "Game Changer"

Abdulmutallab, the , has allegedly indicated ties to al Qaeda operatives in Yemen - fertile ground for terrorist training and activity. Yemen's role as a terrorist training ground could prove to be "game changer" in the U.S. war against extremists, according to CBS News national security analyst Juan Zarate.

"I think that could change the contest of how we view the terror threat, how the administration has to deal with the potential safe haven in Yemen and also how we view other safe havens in Somalia and North Africa," Zarate said.

Harold Demuren, the head of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, says Abdulmutallab's ticket came from a KLM office in Accra, Ghana. Demuren said Monday that Abdulmutallab bought the $2,831 round-trip ticket from Lagos, Nigeria, to Detroit via Amsterdam on Dec. 16.

He paid cash for the ticket and boarded the plane with just a single carry-on bag, reports Axelrod.

Demuren declined to comment about Abdulmutallab's travels in the days before he boarded his Dec. 24 flight from Lagos to Detroit via Amsterdam, saying FBI agents and Nigerian officials view the information as "sensitive."

The Obama administration into the two areas of aviation security - how travelers are placed on watch lists and passengers screened - as critics continued to question how Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was on a watchlist with a U.S. visa in his pocket and a powerful explosive hidden on his body, was allowed to board a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano acknowledged Monday that the security measures in place to safeguard the U.S. from airline attacks had failed.

"Obviously this individual should not have gotten on the plane carrying that material. And we can explain all of the reasons, but they're not satisfactory," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told CBS' "The Early Show" Monday.

Napolitano also said Monday in an NBC interview that "our system did not work in this instance."

Her comments come after remarks to CNN Sunday saying "the system worked" - remarks that drew immediate criticism from Republicans.

Airport security "failed in every respect," Rep. Peter King of New York said Sunday on "Face the Nation." "It's not reassuring when the secretary of Homeland Security says the system worked."

The White House press office, traveling with President Barack Obama in Hawaii, said early Monday that the president would make a statement from the Kaneoho Marine Base in the morning. White House spokesman Bill Burton did not elaborate.

Billions of dollars have been spent on aviation security since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when commercial airliners were hijacked and used as weapons.

Abdulmutallab had been placed in a U.S. database of people suspected of terrorist ties in November, but there was not enough information about his activity that would place him on a watch list that could have kept him from flying.

In Britain, Abdulmutallab was placed on a standard watch list of people whose visa applications were rejected, but he was not flagged as a potential terror suspect, British officials said Monday.

Meanwhile, CBS News has learned the State Department system designed to keep track of active U.S. visas to reveal Abdulmutallab had been issued an active visa allowing him multiple entries into the United States, reports CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian.

Authorities now digging in to every aspect of his life. Investigators away the world are checking computer files, searching for videos and personal writing, offering insights into Abdulmutallab's mindset, reports Keteyian.

British officials acknowledged placing Abdulmutallab's name on a U.K. watch list after he was refused a student visa in May.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson added that police and security services are looking at whether Abdulmutallab was radicalized in Britain.

Abdulmutallab received a degree in engineering and business finance from University College London last year and later applied to re-enter Britain to study at another institution. Johnson said Monday he was refused entry because officials suspected the school was not genuine and they then put his name on the list.

Johnson says that people on the list can transit through the U.K. but cannot enter the country.

Officials said he came to the attention of U.S. intelligence last month when his father, Alhaji Umar Mutallab, a prominent Nigerian banker, reported to the American Embassy in Nigeria about his son's increasingly extremist religious views.

In a statement released Monday morning, Abdulmutallab's family in Nigeria said that after his "disappearance and stoppage of communications while schooling abroad," his father reached out to Nigerian security agencies two months ago. The statement says the father then approached foreign security agencies for "their assistance to find and return him home."

The family says: "It was while we were waiting for the outcome of their investigation that we arose to the shocking news of that day."

The statement did not offer any specifics on where Abdulmutallab had been.


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