The CIA foiled a plot by al-Qaida’s affiliate in Yemen to bomb a U.S.-bound airliner this month, senior U.S. officials told NBC News.
Officials said the plot involved a bomb that improved on the one that had been sewn into the underpants of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who failed in a plot to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009. That device did not detonate.
This bomb had a more refined detonation mechanism and was “totally non-metallic,” which officials told NBC News would have made it more difficult to detect by traditional screening processes.
A U.S. counterterrorism official told NBC News there were “refinements on reliability” in particular that made this bomb more sophisticated and more likely to explode.
In addition to being a threat to commercial planes, the official said this type of bomb could be used in crowded places, on other transportation systems or for assassinations.
The official noted that the bomb “was never near a plane” and “never posed a risk.” The plot was disrupted well before it threatened Americans or U.S. allies, the official added.
The U.S. received the device last month. The FBI is currently conducting technical and forensics analyses on it.
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