British intelligence played a central role in the undercover operation to foil an underwear bomb plot involving al-Qaeda’s Yemeni offshoot,counterterrorism sources told Reuters.
The undercover informant in the plot linked to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,or AQAP,was a British citizen,possibly of Saudi origin,the sources said on condition of anonymity. The informant was working in cooperation with Britains two principal spy agencies.
US officials revealed publicly on Monday that AQAP tried to arm a suicide bomber with a non-metallic device that was an upgraded version of an underwear bomb that was carried on to a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day 2009,but failed to detonate.
The device that authorities seized in the undercover operation contained what was intended to be a more reliable detonating mechanism,counterterrorism officials said. US officials said earlier this week that the latest plot was foiled by the CIA and allied foreign intelligence services,without identifying the allies. British authorities put heavy pressure on the Obama administration not to disclose Britains role in the investigation.
Several US media outlets reported that Saudi Arabia was the key partner in the operation. But it turns out that British intelligence played what appears to be a more central role in foiling the plot to send a suicide bomber on to an airplane. The operation was a cooperative venture between Britains domestic and foreign intelligence services known as MI5 and MI6,officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
A spokesman for Britains Foreign Office declined to comment,saying that in such cases it never confirmed or denied the involvement of British intelligence.