WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said in an interview aired on Tuesday that al Qaeda has been weakened by U.S. actions, and as evidence pointed to a taped message purported to be by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden about a failed Christmas Day airplane bomb plot.
“Al Qaeda itself is greatly weakened from where it was back in 2000. Bin Laden sending out a tape trying to take credit for a Nigerian student who engaged in a failed bombing attempt is an indication of how weakened he is because this is not something necessarily directed by him,” Obama told ABC’s Good Morning America.
“Since 9/11, we have put in a series of measures that make us much safer now than we were before,” Obama said, referring to the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Obama has been criticized by Republicans over his administration’s response to the December 25 bombing attempt on a U.S.-bound airliner. The Yemen-based regional wing of al Qaeda has said it was behind the plan to detonate a bomb as the plane approached Detroit.
In an audiotape aired on Al Jazeera television on Sunday, a man purporting to be bin Laden claimed responsibility for the failed attack.
The tape, which U.S. officials could not immediately verify as authentic, praised bomb plot suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and vowed more strikes at the United States.
On Monday, the U.S. State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism dismissed the message a grab for “reflected glory” and not a sign that bin Laden was behind the plot.
Reporting by David Morgan, editing by Vicki Allen