The road to the December 25 attempt to blow up Northwest Flight NW253 again leads to Yemen, just as the road to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks did.
The Yemeni government has now confirmed the presence of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the suspect in the attempted attack on NW253, in the country from August to December. The country’s official news agency, Saba, reports that the visa was granted largely because Abdulmutallab had a U.S. visa.
The statement will raise new questions about how the U.S. handled information provided by Abdulmutallab’s father that his son was radicalizing. Legislators in the U.S. are already asking why the information didn’t automatically trigger closer scrutiny of Abdulmutallab when flying. Why was his visa not revoked, can be added to the list of questions.
The Yemeni government says it now is looking into what company Abdulmutallab kept while in their country.
In the mean time, the government says it will continue its attacks against Al-Qaeda forces, which have been stepped up in recent weeks. Speaking again to the official Saba news outlet, a security official vowed further military attacks would be undertaken.
Is Yemen the next Al-Qaeda sanctuary? It sure seems that way, but not everyone agrees. For skepticism on the issue, it is worth reading this interview RFL/RL has conducted with Mustafa Alani, the program director for terrorism at the Gulf Research Center.
Alani argues that “for the last three or four years, Al-Qaeda tried to attack [inside Yemen] but without any success. We have a number of attempted attacks but the rate of success was very low. So yes, the challenge is there, the environment is there. But I think that Al-Qaeda so far has not really been able to establish itself as a major player inside the country.”