MI5 warned U.S. about Detroit airline bomber in 2008
Claims: Information on alleged bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was passed to UK spy agencies, Downing Street has said
British intelligence agencies had given the United States information about the Detroit plane bomber long before his attempted attack, Downing Street claimed yesterday.
The name of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was included in a dossier of people believed to have made attempts to deal with known extremists that was shared with American intelligence in 2008, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said.
Abdulmultallab was listed as having tried to contact radical Islamists while studying in London but was not singled out as a particular risk because he was 'not radicalised until he left the UK in October 2008', the spokesman added.
The disclosure is likely to deepen the growing rift with the White House over who knew what about the wannabe bomber and has the potential to deeply embarrass President Barak Obama.
The move could be seen as a British attempt to deny American claims that Britain has not done enough to fight homegrown extremists and that it has fostered terrorists.
Mr Obama has criticised his own intelligence agencies for failing to piece together information about the 23-year-old Nigerian that should have stopped him boarding the flight.
Abdulmutallab allegedly attempted to ignite explosives stored in his underwear as Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam - carrying 280 passengers - made its final descent to Detroit.
He has reportedly told FBI investigators he was supplied with the bomb in Yemen and the UK and U.S. authorities have announced stepped-up efforts to counter the Al Qaeda threat from that country.
It has been reported that counter-terrorism officials knew Abdulmutallab had 'multiple communications' with Islamic extremists in Britain while a student between 2006 and 2008.
It said officials were aware of repeated contacts with MI5 targets who were under surveillance but that the information had not been shared at the time.
However, a spokeman for the Prime Minister said: 'Clearly there was security information about this individual's activities and that was information that was shared with the U.S. authorities.
'That is the key point.
'We are pretty certain that he was radicalised outside the UK. He left the UK in October 2008. But it is also clear that whilst he was here he was attempting to make contact with people and that is the intelligence we were able to secure from the intelligence services.
'One of the lessons that clearly comes out of what could have been a terrible tragedy was the whole question about how we continue to share intelligence about individuals.'
Attack: Abdulmutallab is arrested aboard the plane in Detroit, which he is alleged to have attempted to blow up
Today, airline passengers heading to the United States faced increased security screening at airports around the world after new measures were brought in following the alleged attack by Abdulmutallab.
Pakistan's national airline said it was intensifying security checks for U.S.-bound passengers, even though there are no direct flights to the States from Pakistan.
Screening was also stepped up for those flying to the U.S. from other parts of Asia and the Middle East.
Brown was forced into an embarrassing climbdown after Downing Street's claims that the Prime Minister was spearheading a Yemen terror crackdown with Obama turned out to be untrue.
The claims were made following the evacuation of the British Embassy in Yemen after 'credible' threats of an attack by the Al Qaeda cell behind the syringe bomb plot.
No 10 said on Saturday that Mr Brown had agreed with Mr Obama to launch a new initiative to thwart the Al Qaeda group responsible.
'Amongst the initiatives the PM has agreed with President Obama is US-UK funding for a special counter-terrorism police unit in Yemen,' the statement said, adding that the plans had 'been discussed in a series of phone calls since the failed plot'.
But that was exposed as spin yesterday when Mr Brown was asked in a TV interview whether he had spoken to Mr Obama. He replied: 'Not directly.'
A spokesman for the Prime Minister today defended the decision not to single out Abdulmutallab as a risk.
He was barred from re-entering the UK after his spell as a student because he applied for a bogus course, not because he was on any list of potential threats.
'There are a number of individuals who try and reach out to radicals and others,' he said, suggesting many of them were simply doing so out of curiosity and did not pose a threat.
'It does not necessarily mean they are going to be planning any specific action. Whatever he decided to do, he decided to do whilst he was out of the country.'
Abdulmutallab, the son of a top Nigerian banker, studied an engineering degree at UCL between 2005 and 2008.
During his time as president of the university's Islamic society, he oversaw a week-long 'war on terror' event two years ago,
Investigations of his time in the UK continue but the institution has denied there is any evidence he was radicalised while studying there and Mr Brown has repeatedly insisted it only happened after he left this country.
Mr Obama blamed a 'systemic failure' by U.S. intelligence for not ensuring the alleged bomber was placed on a 'no fly' list.
Abdulmutallab's father had warned American officials in Nigeria that his son could pose a threat weeks before the failed attack.
'Where our government has information on a known extremist and that information is not shared and acted upon as it should have so that this extremist boarded a plane with dangerous explosives that could have cost nearly 300 lives, a systemic failure has occurred and I consider that totally unacceptable,' he said.
Although Downing Street confirmed information on Abdulmutallab had been passed to the U.S. authorities, a spokesperson was tonight unable to confirm exactly when this had happened.
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