A plot by al-Qaeda in Yemen to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner was thwarted by a spy allied with the CIA who infiltrated the group, ABC News reported Tuesday.
The spy is now “safely out of Yemen,” an unnamed “international intelligence official” told ABC.
The mole had links to the Central Intelligence Agency and several other spy services, according to the report.
U.S. officials did not see the bomb as an immediate threat because all along the spy had “control” of the device, ABC said.
The United States announced Monday that it had foiled a plan by al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen to detonate an explosive on an airliner, saying that the FBI was examining an explosive that had been seized abroad.
But U.S. officials did not say where the bomb was found or provide other details about the case.
The CIA declined to comment on the television report.
Meanwhile Yemen said it had no knowledge of the alleged plot
“We have no information on the attempted bombing the U.S. authorities have spoken of,” an official in Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s office, who asked not to be named, said.
Another senior Yemeni official said Sana’a was kept out of the loop on the subject.
“The bomb plot only served U.S. interests and Yemen was once more kept in the dark,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.
One U.S. official has said the bomb appeared to be similar to the work of fugitive Saudi militant Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, who U.S. intelligence officials think is AQAP’s main bomb-maker.
AQAP is the principal focus of U.S. concern in Yemen. Washington backed a power transfer deal under which former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, once seen as a vital partner in U.S. counter-terrorism efforts, left office in February.
Saleh gave way to Hadi, his deputy, after more than a year of mass protests against his 33-year rule that split the military and ignited bouts of open warfare between pro- and anti-Saleh factions as well as tribal militias.
An al-Qaeda-linked group, Ansar al-Sharia, seized swathes of southern territory during the uprising against Saleh, whose foes accused him at times of colluding with the militants while underlining to Washington that only he could handle them.
The United States, which seeks to kill alleged al-Qaeda leaders in Yemen with drone and missile strikes, now wants Hadi to re-unify the military and use it against al-Qaeda.