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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Obama blames Qaeda affiliate for airliner attack

U.S. President Barack Obama Saturday for the first time accused an al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen of arming and training a young Nigerian man for a thwarted suicide mission to blow up a U.S. airliner.

Obama, in his weekly radio and video address posted on the White House website, promised to hold the group, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, to account for the attack, declaring the United States was at war with a "far-reaching network of violence and hatred."

"We know that he traveled to Yemen, a country grappling with crushing poverty and deadly insurgencies," Obama said, referring to the suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

"It appears that he joined an affiliate of al-Qaeda, and that this group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula-trained him, equipped him with those explosives and directed him to attack that plane headed for America."

Previously, U.S. officials have not said publicly that the Northwest attack was the work of Al-Qaeda, though had noted there was a "linkage" with the terror group.

The Arabian peninsula franchise of al-Qaeda had on Monday claimed the failed December 25 bombing of a jet in a statement picked up by U.S. monitors.

Abdulmutallab is accused of trying to blow up the plane as it approached Detroit on a flight from Amsterdam, by setting off explosives stitched into his underwear. The attempt failed when he was stopped by passengers.

Obama said that because of past attacks by the al-Qaeda affiliate he had, even before the Christmas Day attempt, stepped up U.S. cooperation with insurgency-scarred Yemen.

"Training camps have been struck; leaders eliminated; plots disrupted," he said in the address.

"And all those involved in the attempted act of terrorism on Christmas must know-you too will be held to account."

Obama also put the Northwest attack in the context of the wider threat from terrorism, following complaints from some Republicans that he has not adopted the "war on terrorism" formulation of his predecessor George W. Bush.

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