Yemen confirmed today that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who has been charged with trying to blow up a US-bound airliner, was still in the country earlier this month after the local al Qa'eda branch claimed the attempted bombing. "He stayed in Yemen between the beginning of August and the beginning of December, after having received a visa to study Arabic at an institute in Sanaa where he had previously studied," a Yemeni foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by the official Saba news agency.
The spokesman did not provide details on Mr Abdulmutallab's previous stay in Yemen, saying only that Yemen gave him a visa after security officials were "reassured that he had been granted visas by friendly countries, and still held a valid visa to the US, where he had visited before." Mr Abdulmutallab, 23, is a Nigerian Muslim and the son of a wealthy banker. US security officials have told the media that he is suspected of receiving training from al Qa'eda. But the US government has been cautious about linking the failed attack to Osama bin Laden's network.
His family has said he travelled to Yemen, where he cut ties with them. The Yemeni spokesman said that security agencies are investigating "the parties with whom the accused Nigerian was in contact during his time in Yemen." He said the results will be "sent to US agencies investigating the attempted attack, within the framework of US-Yemeni co-operation on security and fighting terrorism." The spokesman condemned the attack, and said his country, "which has suffered much from terrorism," remains "an active partner in the international community in the war against terrorism."
"The Yemeni security services continue to track and carry out operations against the terrorists of al Qa'eda," he added. Al Qa'eda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is active in Yemen and neighbouring Saudi Arabia, said in an internet posting on Monday that it masterminded the attempted bombing. Mr Abdulmutallab is accused of attempting to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight carrying 278 passengers and 11 crew from Amsterdam to Detroit on December 25 using a device containing PETN, also known as pentaerythritol, a high explosive.
The explosives were allegedly sewed into his underwear and officials say that tragedy was averted only because the makeshift detonator failed to work properly before fellow passengers jumped on the suspect. * AFP