(CBS News) U.S. officials confirmed Monday that the CIA last month intervened in a plot to bomb a U.S.-bound airliner using an improved version of the “underwear bomb” that failed to detonate on a Northwest Airlines flight over Detroit in late 2009.
Officials stress that the new plot — organized by al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP – never posed a threat to aircraft or passengers because it was disrupted so early.
The revelation of the new airliner plot comes one-day after a CIA drone strike in Yemen killed Fahd Mohammad Ahmed Al-Quso, an al Qaeda figure indicted in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole and one of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Terrorists.
Quso had a key role in the planning of the new underwear bombing plot, senior U.S. counterterrorism officials told CBS News national security analyst Juan Zarate, because Quso has been the operational leader of AQAP since another strike Anwar al-Awlaki last September.
Quso’s burgeoning role in the major al Qaeda affiliate – and what officials call his direct involvement in the planning of a new attack on the United States – likely increased his value as a target for U.S. military planners.
A senior administration official told CBS News White House correspondent Norah O’Donnell that “the strike against him was not tied to disruption of plot.”
There’s no evidence to contradict that official statement. But certainly the death of a top terrorist figure this weekend will be seen as a bigger win for the United States in light of the revelation of a major plot that man was planning.
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