x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Bin Laden claims Christmas airline bomb attempt

Osama bin Laden claims responsibility for the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner in a new audio message.

CAIRO // Osama bin Laden claimed responsibility for the attempt to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas in a new audio message released today threatening more attacks on the United States. The message suggests the al Qa'eda leader wants to appear in direct command of the group's many affiliates around the world at time when some analysts have suggested he is mostly a figurehead. In the minute-long recording carried by Al-Jazeera Arabic news channel, bin Laden addressed the US president Barack Obama and said the Christmas attack was meant to send a message similar to that of the September 11 attacks.

"The message delivered to you through the plane of the heroic warrior Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was a confirmation of the previous messages sent by the heroes of the September 11," he said. "America will never dream of security unless we will have it in reality in Palestine," he added. "God willing, our raids on you will continue as long as your support for the Israelis continues." On Christmas Day, Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian, attempted to blow up his Northwest Airlines flight as it approached Detroit Metro Airport. But the explosive powder he was hiding in his underwear failed to detonate.

He told federal agents shortly afterward that he had been trained and given the explosives by al Qa'eda in the Arabian Peninsula, an al Qa'eda affiliate in Yemen. Al Qa'eda in the Arabian Peninsula originally claimed responsibility for the failed plot. But bin Laden suggested he was the one who ordered attacks, rather than just put his seal of approval on events afterward. Rohan Gunaratna, author of Inside Al Qadea: Global Network of Terror said: "The training and the definition of the attack was by the local leaders of al Qa'eda in the Arabian Peninsula, so in many ways you can say bin Laden is exploiting for his benefit this particular attack.

"It gives a clear demonstration that bin Laden is still alive and continues to make ideological impact on the global jihad movement." Of all the various offshoots and branches of al Qa'eda around the world, Mr Gunaratna said the group in Yemen is one of the closest to bin Laden since it is made up of bodyguards and associates of the organisation's top ideologues. Yemen is bin Laden's ancestral homeland.

"Today the operational relationship has somewhat suffered, but the ideological relationship is very strong and that is why bin Laden claimed this attack," Mr Gunaratna said. Analysts have long debated how much control bin Laden, who is believed to be somewhere in Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, really has over the various organisations using his group's name. There was no way to confirm the voice on the audio message was actually that of bin Laden, but it resembled previous recordings attributed to him.

* AP