A terrorist plot to blow up a U.S. passenger jet timed to coincide with the Olympics has been uncovered by security agencies, according to intelligence sources.
Al Qaeda intended to use a radicalised Norwegian Islamic convert to attack U.S. planes in the build-up to the London Games – which start in 26 days on July 27 – it is understood.
The plan centred on using the so-called ‘clean skin’ – a terrorist with no previous criminal record and are unlikely to raise suspicions among the security services – in order to evade airport security.
‘If you are blowing up aeroplanes you are likely to be killing Brits or having a big impact on the European or British economy. [So it] would in effect be an attack against Britain,’ a Whitehall official told the Sunday Times.
It is believed the suspect tasked with the attack uses the Islamic name Muslim Abu Abdurrahman, had converted to Islam in 2008, and was recruited in a terrorist training camp in Yemen, sources told the Sunday Times.
It is not thought to have been aimed specifically at the Olympics in London, but security forces protecting the Games said intelligence on any possible threat was constantly reviewed.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: ‘We have planned against the four main areas of threat: terrorism, serious and organised crime, public disorder and natural hazards.
‘We are working closely with Games organisers to deliver an end to end operation to ensure everyone is safe and secure. Alongside LOCOG’s in venue security operation, police will be present for the detection and prevention of crime.
‘Our intelligence is kept under constant review. For operational reasons we do not discuss the exact detail of how we monitor any individual or group.’
Terrorists from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP), based in Yemen, are understood to be behind this latest plot.
The same group were revealed to have been behind at least four other attempted attacks in the last four years.
Nigerian-born British student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was ordered to carryout a suicide mission for AQAP when he attempted to detonate a bomb in his underpants as the plane, en route from Amsterdam, approached Detroit.
It failed to fully detonate aboard the flight, which was carrying nearly 300 people, but caused a brief fire that badly burned his groin.
Passengers pounced on Abdulmutallab and forced him to the front of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 where he was held until the plane landed minutes later.
In 2009, months before the attack, he travelled to Yemen to see Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric and one of the best-known al Qaeda figures, according to the government.
In February, this year, a U.S. court jailed him for life without parole.
AQAP were said to be responsibility for a sophisticated attempt to blow up a cargo plane with bombs hidden in ink cartridges.
At least one of the bombs planted on cargo planes heading for Chicago was primed to explode once the aircraft reached the U.S. mainland.