Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Day Islamist Attack Foiled

I guess the Christmas Day attack on Northwest flight 253 makes the point about our concerns over Islamist attacks on our airliners:

A Nigerian engineering student at a British university, Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, tried to blow up a transatlantic aircraft in a suspected al-Qaeda plot, it is claimed.

The 23-year-old attempted to ignite an explosive device strapped to his leg as a Northwest Airlines flight carrying 278 passengers and 11 crew came in to land in Detroit, according to US security officials.

He suffered second degree burns before being overpowered by other passengers including one who jumped on him and was also burned.

Mutallab, whom US security sources said was a student at University College London, claimed to have picked up his device in Yemen and to be an agent of al-Qaeda.

The White House said it believed it was an attempted act of terrorism.
("Detroit: British student in al-Qaeda airline bomb attempt").

This is a story certain to have saturation news coverage, which is a good thing since the airlines, transportation authorities, and the media have all resisted recognizing a pattern of dry runs testing air crew reactions to organized disruptive behavior. Like the Ft. Hood attack, this story was out before the media had a chance to quash it.

This doesn’t appear to be a dry run. But who knows if Mutallab wasn’t just a guinea pig intended to provide one more puzzle piece in al Qaeda’s longer-range strategy to penetrate airline security. Mutallab’s attempt bears similarities to both Richard Reid’s shoe-bomb attempt, and to the 2006 plot to blow up transatlantic flights headed here from the UK with chemicals smuggled aboard planes. And that plan was first attempted by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Yousef in 1995 when they tried mixing “chemicals they planned to smuggle onto 12 planes headed to Seoul and Hong Kong and then to the United States.”

I can conceive of a future combined attack where a lone Mutallab figure mixes his chemicals unnoticed because the entire plane is preoccupied with six imams doing Chinese fire drills and blocking the aisles.

We’re grateful that quick action by passengers and crew spared Flight 253, and the communities in the airliner’s flight path, what could have been a devastating attack.

But the important thing now is the big picture of how al Qaeda are still determined to attack us. They don’t seem to hate us any less for electing Obama. And they don’t seem to be respecting our narrow martial aim to engage them only in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This was a Yemen-connected plot.

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