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Yemen: U.S. Never Told Us About Suspect

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab over Yemen flag with shadow of a figure
AP/CBS
Yemeni authorities complained Tuesday that the U.S. never shared its suspicions about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the suspected terrorist who attempted to blow up Northwest Flight 253.

Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old from Nigeria, in Yemen, as recently as this month, said Yemen's Information Minister Hassan al-Lozy.

But despite increasing cooperation on the counterterrorism front between the two nations, no information on his whereabouts or activities passed between Yemen and the U.S.

"We didn't get any notice from the Americans to put this man on a list," al-Lozy said. "America should have told Yemen about this man, as they have of others."

The U.S. has been aiding the largely lawless Yemen with counterterrorism training and weapons as it fights two wars - a civil war in the north and one against al Qaeda, reports CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar.

Special Report: The Christmas Day Terror Attack

U.S. authorities have been trying to determine how Abdulmutallab managed to board a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit with explosives even though he was flagged on a watchlist as a possible terrorist. U.S. officials have said he told investigators after his arrest that he received training in Yemen.

Abdulmutallab's attempt, which was later as a training ground for terrorist groups.

"For many years now, al Qaeda has had a presence in Yemen," says Peter Clarke, the former head of counterterrorism for London's Metropolitan Police and a CBS News consultant. "The internal conflict and instability there give it an operating base and a training base, and we've seen just how dangerous this can be."

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Growing Al Qaeda Threat from Yemen
Abdulmutallab Lonely, Web Postings Suggest
Confusion Reigns Over Flight Security
Key Travel Agencies Lack Permanent Heads
Christmas Incident Renews Scanner Debate
Abdulmutallab's "Jihad Fantasies" Revealed
Behind the Abdulmutallab Security Breach
New Focus on Yemen in Counter-Terror Fight
Abdulmutallab Visited Yemen This Year
What Lies Ahead for Air Travel
Al Qaeda: We Planned Flight 253 Bombing
Obama: Plane Bomb Plot a "Serious Reminder"
Officials: In-Flight Restrictions Eased
Tracing Bomb Suspect's Journey to Detroit
Expert: New Security Steps a Smokescreen
U.S. Failed to Catch Suspect's Active Visa
Abdulmutallab Shocks Family, Friends

In the wake of the attempted attack, Yemeni investigators pieced together the movements and contacts of Abdulmutallab, questioning the principal of a school where he studied for a second day on Tuesday.

Investigators said he spent at least part of the time studying Arabic at a school in the capital of San'a, where students and administrators described him as friendly and outgoing with no overtly extremist views. As part of the investigation, the principal of a school where he studied was being questioned Tuesday.

Abdulmutallab told his parents he wanted to study Islamic Sharia law only a few months ago, something his father said he couldn't do. Abdulmutallab response was a text message from an unknown cell phone number saying he never would talk to his family again, Nigerian Information Minister Dora Akunyili said Tuesday.

Abdulmutallab lived in Yemen for two different periods of time, a year from 2004-2005 and from August-December this year, he said. He arrived in August after receiving a visa to study Arabic in the capital San'a.

Yemen's Foreign Ministry said Monday Abdulmutallab received a Yemeni visa after authorities were reassured that he had "several visas from a number of friendly countries." It noted that Abdulmutallab had a valid visa to the United States, which he had visited in the past. The embassy has now been instructed not to issue any more visas to students who want to study in the country without Interior Ministry approval.

The San'a Institute for the Arabic Language told The Associated Press that Abdulmutallab was an Arabic student at the school in August. That has raised questions about what he did the rest of his time in Yemen. Administrators at the school said Monday that the director of the school, Muhammad al-Anisi, has spent two days being questioned by Yemeni security officials. He remained in custody Tuesday.

Al-Lozy later told The Associated Press authorities are also looking into Abdulmutallab's frequent visits to a mosque in the old, historic part of the city and the people he was with during his stay in Yemen.

Students and administrators at the institute said Abdulmutallab was gregarious, had many Yemeni friends and was not overtly extremist. They noted, however, he was open about his sympathies toward the Palestinians and his anger over Israel's actions in Gaza.

The students and administrators spoke on condition of anonymity because Yemeni security authorities have ordered them not to talk to the media.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said the attack was retaliation for a U.S. operation against the group in Yemen. More than 60 militants were killed in airstrikes last week believed to have been carried out with U.S. assistance.