WASHINGTON — Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on Monday claimed responsibility for the attack on a U.S. airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day, saying it was retaliation for a U.S. operation against the group in Yemen.
Federal authorities met Monday to reassess the U.S. system of terror watchlists to determine how to avoid the type of lapse that allowed a man with explosives to board the flight in Amsterdam even though he was flagged as a possible terrorist.
In a statement posted on the Internet, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab coordinated with members of the group, an alliance of militants based in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Yemeni forces, helped by U.S. intelligence, carried out two airstrikes against al Qaeda operatives in the country this month. The second one was a day before Abdulmutallab attempted to bring down a Northwest Airlines flight as it prepared to land in Detroit.
The group said Abdulmutallab used explosives manufactured by al Qaeda members. "He managed to penetrate all devices and modern advanced technology and security checkpoints in international airports bravely without fear of death," the group said in the statement, "relying on God and defying the large myth of American and international intelligence, and exposing how fragile they are, bringing their nose to the ground, and making them regret all what they spent on security technology."
The group also released what it said was a photo of Abdulmutallab, smiling in a white shirt and white Islamic skullcap, overlaid on a graphic showing a plane taking off. In a second version of the same photo, he is shown with the al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula banner in the background.
The claim of responsibility was dated Saturday but posted on Monday on a Web site frequently used by militants to disseminate their messages.
The Obama administration has ordered investigations into how travelers are placed on watch lists and how passengers are screened, as critics and administration officials questioned how Abdulmutallab was allowed to board the flight. A senior U.S. intelligence official said authorities were reviewing the procedures that govern the lists, which could include how someone is placed on or moved between the various databases.
"Why wasn't he flagged at a higher screening level?" Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on ABC's "Good Morning America." ''How did he get an explosive substance on to the plane? All of those are serious questions that we are now looking at."