Security services had month's warning about airline bomb plot

Security services were warned of a terrorist bomb plot weeks before the failed Christmas Day airliner attack, it was claimed today.

Security services were warned of a terrorist bomb plot weeks before the failed Christmas Day airliner attack, it was claimed today.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was added to a terrorist database in November after US officials were contacted by his father.

But the Dutch Government said security checks at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport revealed “no suspicious matters” as the 23-year-old boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 253 to Detroit.

Reports in the US said American government officials received intelligence weeks earlier that a Nigerian was in Yemen being prepared for a terrorist assault.

The US State Department said it would be “premature” to comment on the claim while investigations were continuing.

But the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) confirmed it had been aware of Abdulmutallab’s “extremist connections” for at least a month.

“We learned of him in November, when his father came to the US embassy in Nigeria and sought help in finding him,” spokesman George Little said.

“We did not have his name before then. Also in November, we worked with the embassy to ensure he was in the government’s terrorist database – including mention of his possible extremist connections in Yemen.”

Dutch Interior Minister Guusje Ter Horst said full body scanners would be introduced at Schiphol Airport for flights to the US.

BAA, which owns six UK airports, including Heathrow, said it would await a European ruling on privacy regulations before considering a similar move.

At a press conference today, Ms Ter Horst said Abdulmutallab was carrying a valid Nigerian passport and US visa.

“No suspicious matters which would give reason to classify the person involved as a high-risk passenger were identified during the security check,” she said.

“It is not exaggerating to say the world has escaped a disaster.”

She described the plan to blow up the Detroit-bound aircraft as “professional” but its execution as “amateurish”.

Yesterday US president Barack Obama criticised “systemic” failings that allowed Abdulmutallab to board the flight.

Investigators were today continuing to probe Abdulmutallab’s background in Britain including claims he was radicalised while studying at University College London (UCL).

National Union of Students president Wes Streeting said: “We remain vigilant and concerned by the threat posed by violent extremism, including the serious - though not widespread – problem we face on some UK campuses.

“We must not allow recent events to generate a climate of fear and intimidation on our campuses, particularly for the overwhelming majority of Muslim students who are appalled by violent extremism.”

Ms Ter Horst said Abdulmutallab allegedly assembled the explosive device, including 80 grams of Pentrite, or PETN, in the aircraft toilet and had planned to detonate it with a syringe of chemicals.

She said new technology, which projects “stylised” images on to a computer screen, could overcome privacy concerns surrounding full body scanners and might have intercepted Abdulmutallab.

“Our view now is that the use of millimetre wave scanners would certainly have helped detect that he had something on his body, but you can never give 100% guarantees,” Ms Ter Horst said.

Abdulmutallab, who is charged with trying to destroy an aircraft, is being held at the federal prison in Milan, Michigan.

He allegedly attempted to ignite explosive stored in his underwear as the flight, carrying 280 passengers, made its final descent.

It has emerged Adulmutallab oversaw a week-long “war on terror” event, held two years ago, during his time as president of UCL’s Islamic society.

A series of lectures were held at UCL from January 29 to February 2 2007, including one called “Jihad Vs Terrorism”.

A note on posters produced to promote the event said it had been “approved by Umar Farook – president of UCLU Islamic Society”.

The Nigerian, now known as Umar Farouk, studied an engineering degree at the university between 2005 and 2008 – and was Islamic society president from 2006 to 2007.

Officials said today that an unnamed Somali national was being detained after attempting to board a flight in Mogadishu on November 13, carrying powdered chemicals, liquid and a syringe that could have been used to create an explosion.

US officials were investigating any possible links with the failed Detroit plot.

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