Obama vowed to strengthen US security and find those behind the Christmas Day terrorist attack
President Barack Obama on Monday vowed to strengthen US security and find those behind the Christmas Day terrorist attack, speaking just minutes after al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound flight, dpa reported.
In his first public comments since Friday's failed plot, Obama said the attack served as a reminder of the threats facing the United States and vowed to confront those that try to kill innocent civilians.
The US president said he had ordered two investigations into how the US protects its borders from terrorist acts.
A young Nigerian man has been charged with trying to blow up the flight from Amsterdam as it descended towards Detroit. The explosive failed to detonate, instead sparking a small fire, and he was quickly overpowered by passengers and crew.
"It's absolutely critical that we learn from this incident and take the necessary measures to prevent future acts of terrorism," Obama said during vacation with his family in Hawaii.
"We will not rest until we find all those involved and hold them accountable," Obama said. "This was a serious reminder of the dangers that we face and the nature of those who threaten our homeland."
An affiliate of the terrorist group Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the failed attack, according to the US-based IntelCenter, which monitors terrorist activity.
The IntelCenter said al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, posted the claim on a website, saying the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, showed courage by being "able to breach all the modern and sophisticated technologies and checkpoints at the airports around the world, putting his faith in God fearing no death."
Abdulmutallab, 23, has been charged with trying to destroy the Northwest Airlines plane, which was carrying 278 passengers.
Facing criticism over security lapses, Obama ordered a review of the government's system of terrorist watch lists. Abdulmutallab was on a low-level TIDE database of people with possible terrorism links, but not placed on a more restrictive no-fly list.
The Obama administration will also review flight screening procedures. Critics have questioned how Abdulmutallab could have allegedly smuggled pentaerythritol (PETN) explosive material onto the Detroit-bound flight, which left from Amsterdam's Shiphol airport.
"The American people should remain vigilant but also remain confident," Obama said. "As a nation we will do everything in our power to protect our country."
The European Union on Monday said it would also re-examine airport security precautions. Abdulmutallab began his flight in Lagos, Nigeria, but transferred to the Detroit-bound plane in Amsterdam.
US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano earlier Monday admitted security failures allowed Abdulmutallab, who held a US visa, to board the flight to the United States.
"Our system did not work in this instance. No one is happy or satisfied with that. An extensive review is under way," Napolitano told US broadcaster NBC.
Napolitano called TIDE a "generic list" of terrorism suspects that includes half-a-million names. It is the largest, and least restrictive, of four terror watch lists held by the government.
"What do we need to do to change perhaps the rules that have been in place since 2006 for moving somebody from the generic TIDE database to a more elevated status? All of that under review right now," Napolitano told NBC.
British authorities said Monday that Abdulmutallab had also been on a watch list that prevented him from entering Britain.
Abdulmutallab's father, a prominent businessman in Nigeria, said he had warned US officials in the country that his son was missing and that he feared his son had become radicalized, according to Nigerian media. The suspect himself has reportedly said he was trained by al-Qaeda in Yemen.
US lawmakers said congressional hearings into how to beef up security measures will be held in January.
"I think there's much to investigate here," Senator Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, told ABC on Sunday.
Passengers have already faced tighter security measures on flights to the United States since the incident, including stiffer baggage checks at airports and being forced to remain in their seats for the final hour of their journey.
The US Transportation Security Administration was relaxing some of the in-flight measures on Monday, according to US media, leaving more up to the flight crew's discretion.
Another scare occurred Sunday on the same Amsterdam-Detroit route when the flight crew requested emergency assistance for a disruptive passenger who spent more than an hour in the plane's restroom.
The young man, also from Nigeria, was questioned on the ground by investigators but it proved a false alarm. He had apparently been suffering from food poisoning.