(For full coverage of airline incident, see [ID:nLDE5BR0KO])
* Al Qaeda group in Yemen says gave Nigerian device
* Says device failed on plane due to technical fault
* Obama faces political pressure over security threats
(Adds details on Abdulmutallab, security measures)
By Jeff Mason
KAILUA, Hawaii, Dec 28 A wing of al Qaeda
claimed responsibility on Monday for a failed Christmas Day
attack on a U.S.-bound passenger plane and President Barack
Obama vowed to bring "every element" of U.S. power against
those who threaten Americans' safety.
In a statement posted on Islamist websites, the group Al
Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said the attempt was to avenge
U.S. attacks on its members in Yemen.
The group said it had provided the Nigerian suspect in the
failed airliner bombing with a "technically advanced device"
but that it did not detonate because of a technical fault.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, is charged with smuggling
explosives on board and attempting to blow up a Northwest
Airlines flight as it approached Detroit from Amsterdam on Dec.
25 with almost 300 people on board.
Speaking during a vacation in Hawaii, Obama said, "We will
not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them
"We will continue to use every element of our national
power to disrupt, to dismantle and defeat the violent
extremists who threaten us, whether they are from Afghanistan
or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere where they are
plotting attacks against the U.S. homeland."
Abdulmutallab, who had a valid U.S. visa issued before he
was placed on a broad U.S. list of possible security threats,
has told investigators that al Qaeda operatives in Yemen gave
him an explosive device and taught him how to detonate it,
officials said over the weekend.
The incident has put a spotlight on the growing prominence
of al Qaeda in Yemen, which the United States and Saudi Arabia
fear will exploit instability in Yemen to stage attacks in the
Saudi kingdom, the world's largest oil exporter, and beyond.
The United States has quietly been supplying military
equipment, intelligence and training to Yemeni forces, who have
raided suspected al Qaeda hide-outs this month, U.S. defense
and counterterrorism officials said. [ID:nN28154817]
In a worrying development for U.S. security, officials have
discovered that Abdulmutallab's father warned them of his son's
growing radicalism, but this information failed to prevent his
traveling to the United States on a two-year visa issued June
Obama said that as a result of this oversight, he had
ordered a thorough review of the screening process.
"We need to determine just how the suspect was able to
bring dangerous explosives aboard an aircraft and what
additional steps we can take to thwart future attacks," Obama
Obama is under pressure from opposition Republicans who
have been critical of his response to the Christmas Day scare
and have questioned whether his administration is doing enough
to contain security threats.
His administration admitted on Monday that the incident
represented a failure of air security.
Asked on NBC's "Today" show if the security system "failed
miserably," U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano
replied, "It did."
On Sunday, Napolitano said the system to protect air travel
worked, but in appearances on news shows on Monday she said she
had meant that the response to alert other flights and airports
and impose immediate new safety procedures had been effective.
Abdulmutallab was overpowered by passengers and crew on the
Northwest Airlines flight 253 after setting alight an explosive
device attached to his body. He was treated for burns and is in
federal prison awaiting trial.
Airline stocks fell on Monday as the United States
tightened airline security after the incident. AMR Corp
AMR.N, the parent of American Airlines, lost 4.8 percent to
$7.75. Shares of Delta (DAL.N), the parent of Northwest, were
down 4.1 percent to $11.29 [ID:nN28168827]
NEW SECURITY MEASURES
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration did not
give details of its new security measures. But air travelers
described new restrictions on flights headed for the United
States, including additional preflight screening, and -- an
hour before landing -- a ban on movement around the cabin and
on having items such as blankets on passengers' laps.
The agency has since given pilots and flight crews
discretion to ease these in-flight restrictions, a source
familiar with the TSA rules said on Monday.
A TSA spokeswoman declined to confirm the change, saying
the agency "will continuously review and update these measures
to ensure the highest levels of security."
Senate Homeland Security chairman Joe Lieberman, an
independent who usually votes with Democrats, said he plans a
January hearing to investigate the incident, including why
Abdulmutallab was not checked against what the senator said was
"our broadest list of suspected terrorists" and why
body-imaging scanners are not used on more passengers.
Dutch airport authorities said they planned to make new,
more sensitive passenger scanners mandatory after Abdulmutallab
allegedly smuggled explosives in his underwear through Schiphol
Airport security. [ID:nLDE5BR0V2]
(Additional reporting by Firouz Sedarat in Dubai, Debbie
Charles, Adam Entous and Patricia Zengerle in Washington and
Bernie Woodall in Detroit; Chuck Mikolajczak in New York and
Camillus Eboh in Abuja; Writing by Jackie Frank, editing by
Frances Kerry and Doina Chiacu)