President Obama Says Suspect Tied to al Qaeda

ABC News' Yunji de Nies reports:

President Barack Obama says the Nigerian suspect in the Christmas day airline bomb plot has ties to an al Qaeda group.

In his weekly address out this morning, the president said that he has learned more about 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and for the first time publicly linked him to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

"We know that he traveled to Yemen, a country grappling with crushing poverty and deadly insurgencies. 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," the president said.

President Obama said the failed airline attack is not the first time the al Qaeda affiliate has targeted the United States.

"In recent years, they have bombed Yemeni government facilities and Western hotels, restaurants and embassies -- including our embassy in 2008, killing one American," he said. "So, as president, I've made it a priority to strengthen our partnership with the Yemeni government -- training and equipping their security forces, sharing intelligence and working with them to strike al Qaeda terrorists."

The president now has the preliminary findings of reviews examining both airline screening and intelligence procedures. He and his national security team are working to pinpoint the breakdowns that made it possible for the Nigerian suspect to board a plane with explosives heading to Detroit, even after the suspect's father warned intelligence officials that his son could be dangerous.

"I will do everything in my power to make sure our hard-working men and women in our intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security communities have the tools and resources they need to keep America safe," he said. "This includes making sure these communities -- and the people in them -- are coordinating effectively and are held accountable at every level. And as president, that is what I will do."

The president has ordered more thorough reviews to be delivered in the coming days. He is wrapping up his vacation to Hawaii and will hold a meeting with the heads of the agencies involved when he returns to Washington. At this point, what is clear is that the intelligence community missed critical warning signals and did not share information appropriately.

"Those failures will not be tolerated," a senior administration official said.

The political fight over what went wrong is in full force, with high-profile Republicans like former Vice President Dick Cheney accusing Mr. Obama of not taking the terrorist threat seriously enough. Cheney told Politico, "We are at war, and when President Obama pretends we aren't, it makes us less safe."

In his weekly address, the president urged unity.

"As we go forward, let us remember this: Our adversaries are those who would attack our country, not our fellow Americans, not each other," he said. "Let's never forget what has always carried us through times of trial, including those attacks eight Septembers ago.

"Instead of giving in to fear and cynicism, let's renew that timeless American spirit of resolve and confidence and optimism," he added. "Instead of succumbing to partisanship and division, let's summon the unity that this moment demands. Let's work together, with a seriousness of purpose, to do what must be done to keep our country safe."

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