Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is making itself heard around the world these days. The Saudis have been aware of the organization since the Saudi branch of AQ merged with the Yemeni-based organization back in 2006, and particularly since it set up the attempted assassination of Pr. Mohammad bin Nayef a few months ago. Now, the Nigerian who attempted to destroy an American airliner en route to Detroit is claiming that he was acting on orders of the group. The validity of his claim is yet to be determined, but there is nothing apparent to contradict the claim at this point.
The Washington Post runs several pieces today on the attempt, including an editorial. A new Associated Press story appears on the paper’s website, too new to have made the print editions:
Al-Qaida group says it was behind jetliner attack
EILEEN SULLIVAN and LOLITA C. BALDOR
WASHINGTON — Al-Qaida 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-Qaida 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.
A story that did make it into the print edition calls notice to the AQAP. This should be news only to those who weren’t paying attention to the region, including the border clashes between the group and the Saudi military:
The Post‘s editorial is strongly condemnatory of anti-terrorism efforts that failed badly enough to permit this incident to take place.
THE THWARTED Christmas Day airplane bombing raises three causes for alarm. First, it illustrates a screening system that remains porous enough to let a suspect board with the same explosive shoe-bomber Richard Reid attempted to use in 2001. Second, it exposes a terrorism bureaucracy too clumsy to catapult the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, at least to a higher level of preflight scrutiny after his father came forward with warnings that he might pose a danger. Third, if it is true that the suspect received explosives training from al-Qaeda in Yemen, the incident underscores the emergence of that troubled nation as a training ground for terrorists. To that initial list, we would add a fourth: the disturbingly defensive reaction of the Obama administration.
Unfortunately, this incident will have ramifications for those whose lives involve airlines. Already, stricter screening is in place for both international flights ending in the US and for US domestic flights. Air travel is becoming more onerous, more time-consuming, and far less a pleasure than once it might have been.
The complaints of some (including the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU) about new screening technologies’ being too intrusive—here, the complaint is about full-body scanning, either through X-rays or radio waves, and how it demeans the traveler to have his/her entire body seen through clothing—are likely to fall on deafer ears. There’s nothing quite so demeaning, in my opinion, than becoming a collection of body parts spread across several square miles of land or sea because a bomb was permitted aboard my plane!