- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility on Monday for the unsuccessful Christmas Day effort to bring down a jet over Detroit, while the Obama administration rushed to deal with the political fallout from the attack.

President Obama issued his first statement on the attack, telling Americans that his government was doing everything in its power to keep them safe. Hours earlier, the homeland security secretary backed away from her comments Sunday that “the system worked.”

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a group that claims loyalty to Osama bin Laden, said in posts left on jihadist Web forums that the plot against Northwest Airlines Flight 253 was launched in response to recent “American aggression” in Yemen, which has been the site of recent U.S. predator drone attacks.

The group boasted that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab managed to avoid detection by screening machines when he boarded a plane in Amsterdam bound for Detroit with “a technologically advanced [explosive] device” hidden in his underpants.

Mr. Abdulmutallab, 23, is in custody and is scheduled to appear in court Jan. 8 to answer charges that he tried to destroy the plane and kill the nearly 300 people on board.

During the jet’s final approach to Detroit, Mr. Abdulmutallab attempted to set off the device, U.S. authorities say, but succeeded only in causing a small fire in the cabin and burning himself before other passengers subdued him.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula described the device’s failure to explode as “technical difficulties.”

The group also called on Muslims to “kill every crusader who works at an embassy or elsewhere, and to declare an all-encompassing war on every crusader in the Peninsula of Muhammad, prayers and peace be upon him.”

The statement called on every “soldier who works for the crusader armies and the agent governments to repent unto God and emulate the example of the heroic mujahid brother, Nidal Hasan.”

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan is the Army officer charged with killing 13 people during a shooting spree in November at Fort Hood, Texas.

A U.S. counterterrorism official called al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s claim “certainly credible” and “in keeping with the group’s growing desire to strike Western interests beyond the Arabian Peninsula.”

Also, a U.S. intelligence official who is familiar with the FBI’s interrogation of Mr. Abdulmutallab said that during questioning, the suspect made similar claims to those of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Mr. Abdulmutallab “was already in jihad training, but they sped it up as a response to the Predator attacks,” the official said, based on the suspect’s words.

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