Al-Awlaki directed underwear bomb plot
February 10th, 2012
11:01 PM ET

Al-Awlaki directed underwear bomb plot

By Kiran Khalid and Paul Cruickshank

New details about the final plans for the 2009 plot to take down an American jetliner on Christmas Day paint a vivid picture of the significant involvement of Anwar Al-Awlaki, the American-Yemeni militant cleric killed in a drone strike last September.

The information came to light Friday with the release of a Justice Department sentencing memo issued ahead of next week's sentencing of Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab.

AbdulMutallab's trial last year was cut dramatically short when he pleaded guilty to trying to detonate an explosive device in his underwear aboard a Christmas 2009 flight to Detroit.

The short duration of the trial had left many questions unanswered, most notably the role played in the plot by al-Awlaki.

After al-Awlaki's death, President Barack Obama emphasized al-Awlaki's operational role within al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen, labeling him the head of the group's external operations and stating he "directed the failed attempt" in the "underwear bomber" plot. Until now, details weren't well-defined.

In the sentencing memo, the government states that AbdulMutallab sought out al-Awlaki in Yemen in 2009. When he arrived there, the defendant visited several mosques and asked people if they knew how he could meet al-Awlaki according to the document. Eventually, he made contact.

"After receiving defendant's message, Awlaki sent defendant a response, telling him that Awlaki would find a way for defendant to become involved in jihad," the court documents say. "Thereafter, defendant was picked up and driven through the Yemeni desert."

Once AbdulMutallab met al-Awlaki, whose online sermons he had followed for several years, the two men discussed martyrdom and jihad for three days.

"Throughout, defendant expressed his willingness to become involved in any mission chosen for him, including martyrdom - and by the end of his stay, Awlaki had accepted defendant for a martyrdom mission," the memo states.

The memo reveals another new detail about how the wheels were set in motion. After leaving al-Awlaki's house, AbdulMutallab was introduced to AQAP's top bomb-maker, Ibrahim Hasan al-Asiri. Al-Asiri is a Saudi citizen who has developed a genius for bomb design, but remains a shadowy figure.

Before moving to Yemen four years ago, al-Asiri was part of an al Qaeda-affiliated cell in Saudi Arabia targeting oil facilities, according to U.S. authorities.

According to authorities, Al-Asiri designed the underwear bomb then instructed AbdulMutallab how to use it including "having defendant practice the manner in which the bomb would be detonated; that is, by pushing the plunger of a syringe, causing two chemicals to mix, and initiating a fire (which would then detonate the explosive)."

According to the government, al-Awlaki also instructed AbdulMutallab about his martyr video, arranging for a professional film crew to film it.

"Awlaki assisted defendant in writing his martyrdom statement, and it was filmed over a period of two to three days. The full video was approximately five minutes in length," says the Justice Department's memo.

In his short time under Awlaki's tutelage, AbdulMutallab who is the son of a Nigerian multimillionaire and was educated at elite schools and at a top London University, met many key al Qaeda operatives according to the memo.

The memo presented by the government also reveals for the first time that AbdulMutallab also interacted with Samir Khan, the former editor of AQAP's jihadist magazine called "Inspire." Khan was killed by a targeted drone attack along with al-Awlaki in September 2011.

The government's memo helps explain why senior Obama administration officials have contended that al-Awlaki was an orchestrator of terror plots, not just an inspiration to terror aspirants. The final pages of the sentencing memo intended to keep AbdulMutallab behind bars for life includes chilling details that illuminate that involvement.

"Awlaki instructed defendant that the only requirements were that the attack be on a U.S. airliner, and that the attack take place over U.S. soil ... Prior to defendant's departure from Yemen, Awlaki's last instructions to him were to wait until the airplane was over the United States and then to take the plane down."

CNN's Deb Feyerick and Nic Robertson contributed to this report.

soundoff (78 Responses)
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  9. PullMyFinger

    Hey Al A-Lackey!!! Pull my finger you lackey!!!!

    February 13, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Reply
  10. bill

    i always thought it was the Saudi's

    February 13, 2012 at 11:55 am | Reply
    • Fazoo

      Ssshhhh!!!'ll wake up idiot Amerika.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Reply
  11. yup

    Boy ....thease people really like to point there finger at people, In every video there leaders seem to do the same thing, I will now call it the stinky finger of Islam Jihad.... or it must be a nervious reaction of getting blown up at any time.....Plus dont they know thats rood.

    February 13, 2012 at 10:58 am | Reply

    they need to form a new re-enforcement, cause we hav bin playing with their latest trick.

    February 13, 2012 at 1:40 am | Reply
  13. Maria

    This isn't a war against terrorism, its a war against US + allies, the reason for this is that the US is trying to oppress these people and so they are reacting through terrorism to fight back. I say if the US backs down then all shall be ok.

    February 12, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Reply
    • Buzzer

      The U.S. is oppressing what people, exactly how and exactly for what reason?

      February 12, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Reply
      • Creampie

        Somalis, Afghanis, Pakistanis, Yemenis, Iraqis – and anyone else who isn't white.

        All for money.

        February 13, 2012 at 12:04 am |
      • Buzzer

        Creampie: since you just rattled of several SPECIFIC countries and coupled it with a very GENERAL reason/motive and failed to explain SPECIFICALLY how this is being done continue...

        February 13, 2012 at 12:50 am |
      • Buzzer

        Creampie: Crickets... Either you are diligently working on making you statement creditable or you have nothing. I'll put my money on the latter.

        February 13, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
      • Niko

        Posted on Thanks guys. For some reason I just got the e-mail on these comtnems so Sawyer, I hope you did play it for your wife on V-Day and I hope it accomplished whatever your goals were at the time.

        June 28, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  14. Jeff Wood

    That was ballsy!

    February 12, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Reply
    • Jeff Wood

      I agree!

      February 12, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Reply
      • Noermayz

        "BTW, while I know who Carsten Juste is, does anyone else..?"Not me, but I'm not wierord since Casten Juste doesn't know who I am either.

        June 28, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
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  15. README


    KURT HASKEL thats about all you need to know

    February 12, 2012 at 11:47 am | Reply
  16. Iranacockuptheirass

    I think it is hilariousness that sandniggers like Mahmmad and others wont comment on pages like these...just like a suicide bomber...wont say shit

    February 11, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Reply
    • Obama Promised to give $billion ever year to israel forever

      I know what I'm going to do:

      I'm going to give all my money to the dirty evil zionists. I'm going to watch tons of television so I can stay stupid. I will believe everything CNN reports on, and I will do my best to stay in debt like a good goym.

      My dirty evil zionist masters like us dumb Americans when we are dumb and dumber.

      February 12, 2012 at 9:46 am | Reply
      • Random

        What does it matter what people believe in the US. There vote doesn’t mater because of the Electoral College. The politicians go for the highest bidder on their campaign finance. They have the right to bear arms only when there police do not know. They have the right to free speech, but there police can arrest them without charge for 48 hrs. They have a right to a jury trial only if it is criminal; so, they don't have a defense against a $500 ticket. Ordinances do not have to follow due process. They have the right of freedom of movement, but there streets are only designed for cars. This design effectively prevents movement without a car beyond 20 miles. They have the right to privacy, but not in the airport, borders between states, when they are in the car (exigent circumstances), or whenever a cop wants to sprinkle cocaine on them.

        February 12, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  17. Warrior

    Give him punishment!!! How about a taste of 50% hydrogen peroxide on his leg then he will get the message

    February 11, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Reply
  18. MyPictureOfMuhammad


    February 11, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Reply
  19. Tommie T

    American-Yemeni? Sounds like he barely left the old country. So many twists of logic and wording to try to make it sound like foreign nationals who also are terrorists are really "New Americans," as so eloquently put by one Democrat governor who promotes illegal migration to the US. Replete with documents, lots of them, all counterfiet.

    February 11, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Reply
    • HerrSticks

      how ignorant are you?

      He was born in America, and was a US citizen..

      February 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Reply
  20. palintwit

    Speaking of underwear, it is a known fact that teabaggers would crawl a mile over broken glass just to sniff the tire tracks of the truck that took Sarah Palin's underwear to the laundry.

    February 11, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Reply
    • My2Sense4U

      I'd much rather sniff Sarah's underwear than either of the Obama's.

      February 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Reply
    • Jeff Wood

      Heck, I'm not a teabagger, but I'd consider going to that extreme for a sniff of dat!!! :o)~

      February 12, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Reply
  21. Steve

    "Al-Asiri is a Saudi citizen " Most terrorist are/were Saudis. Most of the 9-11 hijackers were Saudis. Saudi camel jocks.

    February 11, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Reply
    • plushtoy

      Exactly! But we would never attack the Saudis because they give us oil! Let's kill on the innocent people in Iraq instead! Goes back to my argument against Bush's war on Iraq.

      February 11, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Reply
    • Buzzer

      Except for the unintentional civilians killed by U.S. military servicemembers when fighting in an urban setting in which the enemy "hid" using these people as human shields, NONE of the members of Saddams regime which were our targets were "innocent". Again, the U.S. military INTENTIONALLY killed which innocent Iraqis? BTW, you can't count the EXTREMELY RARE instances of a couple of rogue service members and creditably characterize the U.S. military as a whole.

      February 13, 2012 at 1:12 am | Reply
  22. AlexShch

    I am not getting it: I is well know that Whahabi Islam specifically prohibits wearing underwear.

    So how can an alQaeda terrorist hide a bomb in his underwear, if you he should not have underwear at the first place?

    ...something is not kosher here.

    Besides, an elementary logic does not add up: when a terrorist commit his martyrdom operation he is destined to go to Eternal Paradise where he is supposed to be greeted by no less than 72 virgins, right? So how he is supposed to greet them in return if his ball are blown off along with other parts of his body? This kind of promise of Paradise is not really an incentive, but a brutal Aby Graib-style torture - be surrounded by beautiful pageants and not having your balls. I am not getting it. Dear ameer al-Awlaki, please explain it to me.

    February 11, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Reply
    • Single

      thanks for the great piece. rather shnckiog how little coverage of this execution was placed in the context of the Yemeni (or global) political situation. also of note is that this observation falls in step with the (somewhat rambling) declaration of the occupy wall st movement.

      June 29, 2012 at 12:06 am | Reply
  23. michaelfury

    AbdulMutallab's trial was "cut dramatically short" because Kurt Haskell was about to testify for the defense.

    Maybe "al-Awlaki" was the "well-dressed man"?

    February 11, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Reply
    • Pete/Ark

      the preceding was a paid commercial by paid actor/spokes person

      February 11, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Reply
  24. Rachel

    By the time I was ten I could easily forge both my parents writing well enough to fool any of my teachers - who worked for them. I can only imagine the level of forgery the CIA can do with over a year's lead. Please how stupid to you think we are? You come out with evidence years after the affect try to justify unconstitutional actions that have blown up in the face of he-who-think's-he-is-a-king, and expect us not to laugh? What was a war crime for the gander is a war crime for the goose. We need to grow up and reconcile ourselves to the facts. Our government is run amok.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:33 am | Reply
    • lornee

      if you are so sure you are right, why did Underwear Man plead guilty?

      February 11, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Reply
    • Pete/Ark

      I tried to run a mok once but I couldn't get it to I stayed alert cuz America needs more lerts

      February 11, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Reply
  25. Bill

    Boy, the guy on the right is a fugly ucker. No wonder he likes to blow up things. Looks like he practiced on his face.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:24 am | Reply
    • Rod C. Venger

      He was born Jewish. Ironic.

      February 11, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Reply
  26. Dolphinvet

    I don't believe I saw Islam mentioned once in the article. Of course, we all know that terrorism like this has NOTHING at all to do with Islam. It's only those greasy Islamophobes that say that. CNN (Caliphate News Network) would never make any association with Islam and terrorism.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:12 am | Reply
    • Petr

      Amerika is number 1 terror people of all world. They murder and maim in name of freedom and justice. They are really big and fat and I dont think they're all that bright. No class. No taste. Shit food. shit beer. Shit Amerika.

      February 12, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Reply
  27. pchelp, Juneau, AK

    Unless the memo gives some details about how the govt knows all this it remains speculative. I doubt that anybody trusts, any more, that the CIA won't lie to the courts-nor that the President won't condone it. So far this reads like fiction.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:52 am | Reply
    • Brett

      Water-boarding isn't a reliable source for Intel.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:23 am | Reply
    • rick

      it is usually good to read the article before commenting. the bomber confessed to the details reported in the article. he is a proud wanna be killer

      February 11, 2012 at 10:35 am | Reply
      • Pete/Ark

        there's no "like" icon on this site so...LIKE

        February 11, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
      • Saul

        Just like all our so-called heroes in the military.

        February 12, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  28. CommonSense

    @patriot: The U.S. would conduct a fair trial if he surrendered himself to their custody. However, he chose to elude capture and continued to perpetrate heinous crimes against his fellow Americans. What about their constitutional right to not be blown up? Like most dangerous criminals, he was wanted dead or alive. Instead of surrendering to face a fair trial, like most cowards he chose death.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:08 am | Reply
    • Larken Rose

      Wait, does someone still believe that in the U.S., anyone gets a fair trial? Or was that sarcasm?

      February 11, 2012 at 11:39 am | Reply
      • rick

        too bad you have so little knowledge of the american judicial system where the prosecutions obligation to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury of the defendant's peers is often impossible and results in many guilty people getting acquitted. pity you live somewhere that does not have these protections. so sad

        February 11, 2012 at 11:44 am |
      • Saul

        Lot's of 'fairness' in Guantanamo.

        February 12, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  29. Realist

    If an American citizen does what he was doing to Americans, he is fair game. If we did capture him, the constituion would have been inconsequential as the entire situation would hav been made into a politcal wedge issue. The world is a better place with him gone, he just happen to be an American. No one he was trying to kill on that plane would have got a fair trial, he was a victim of his own actions

    February 11, 2012 at 9:08 am | Reply
    • rick

      the bomber was offerred a fair trial and very competent counsel that he waived.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:37 am | Reply
      • Reina

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  30. Evo

    I don't see what's wrong with all this; I'm constantly going to bars and trying to recruit chicks to help me detonate an explosive device in my underwear.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:01 am | Reply
    • esoom39

      Hahahahahah good one!!!

      February 11, 2012 at 9:23 am | Reply
    • duckforcover

      Just how is he going to take advantage of his 72 virgins after bombing his crotch? Think ahead dude.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:01 am | Reply
      • Evo

        I think you missed the analogy.
        This particular explosive device can be re-used indefinitely, and the damage it causes is minimal.

        February 11, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
      • HerrSticks

        Evo you just said it causes minimal damage?

        Its open to interpretation, but i think you just dissed yourself. :/

        February 11, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  31. Alex Winter

    I hope he burned his junk off.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:01 am | Reply
    • fofo

      u were great in bill and teds adventure – thought u were dead.

      February 12, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Reply

    umar is a dead man nw, but i tink that same group also have some thing in conjuction with islamic sec BOKO HARAM.

    February 11, 2012 at 3:14 am | Reply
  33. dakota2000

    You mean al-Awlaki? He was a member of al Qaeda. So, I believe the US would be justified in stripping him of his citizenship, and killing him without trial.

    The killing of his 16 year old son is much more troubling. There needs to be an independent investigation, and not by the CIA.

    Judging from the number of comments on this page, no one really cares when US citizens are killed by the US, so, I guess it is ok in general...

    February 11, 2012 at 1:59 am | Reply
  34. patriot

    does this justify not giving an american citizen a fair trial? or is the constitution no longer valid?

    February 10, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Reply
    • Pete/Ark

      al-Awlaki made a public statement renouncing the United States and declaring "war"...the Constitution would only apply if he were still within our territory as it does to other foreign nationals...he decided his own fate..."suicide" was his decision.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:21 am | Reply
    • Guest

      To answer your question ""Awlaki instructed defendant that the only requirements were that the attack be on a U.S. airliner, ",,,, Or in other words, YES!

      February 11, 2012 at 11:00 am | Reply
    • Dover

      You keep beating this drum but you know full well that if your failure boy Bush had gotten the guy he you would have considered him a hero and never questioned the legality. Repulsive group of people the republicans are.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:33 am | Reply
    • GoodLaugh

      In my opinion, when you make threats to blow up anyone that doesn't believe in your ideology, you annul your rights to trail. You can happily volunteer to walk up to a suicidal jihadist who's sole purpose is to kill you that happens to be American and ask if they would like to be tried in court to find out whether or not they're fit for the Drone Squad.

      February 12, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Reply

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