The Christmas Day averted terror incident on the Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. We're digging deeper into the suspect and his story, examining what went wrong with airport security, and checking in with how President Obama has handled the situation.
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AC360° Associate Producer
Tonight we’re following the latest discoveries in the plot to take down Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day. The suspect, Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, checked no luggage, reportedly paid cash for his ticket, and allegedly smuggled a powerful plastic explosive, PETN, aboard the plane carrying 300 passengers. Experts say if he had successfully detonated the explosive, it could have blown a sizeable hole in the aircraft. While investigators continue searching for possible accomplices, AbdulMutallab, a Nigerian citizen, is being held for attempting to destroy the plane and placing a destructive device on the aircraft. AbdulMutallab told authorities he is affiliated with al Qaeda in Yemen; today Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attempted attack, saying it was in retaliation for U.S. strikes on Yemeni soil and threatening further attacks.
The incident on Flight 253 has focused new attention on Yemen, a country that may not immediately come to mind when you think of the war on terror. But in fact, Yemen, a poor and lawless country, is the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden and the target of covert U.S. military operations because it is attracting terrorists pushed out of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It’s fair to ask: Will the thwarted Northwest Airlines threat bring American operations in Yemen out in the open and result in U.S. troop involvement? Tonight, we’ll dig deeper into the possible impact on U.S. military strategy and the threat of future attacks by Yemeni al Qaeda operatives.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/12/28/christmasshoppinghoriz.jpg caption="Retail sales have gone up slightly from last year."]
CNN Financial News Producer
Stocks on Wall Street kicked off the last week of 2009 on a positive note Monday, with the Dow, Nasdaq and S&P 500 all edging up to close at record highs for the year in an otherwise lackluster session.
It’s likely to be an unpredictable week amid light trading volume, with many market participants on vacation and traders focused on 2010.
Stocks have now risen for 6 straight sessions, including the 3-1/2 days of last week's holiday-shortened trading week. All financial markets closed early on Christmas Eve and were closed for Christmas.
The market will be closed again Friday for New Year's Day and many traders are taking the entire week off.
Giving stocks a boost today was an initial report on the holiday shopping season that showed a solid year-over-year gain, both in stores and online.
The report from MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse data service showed a 3.6% increase in retail sales in the period from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24. That compared with a 2.3% drop in last year's report, which was based on charges rung up on MasterCard credit cards as well as a survey of sales made by cash or check.
Ready for today's Beat 360°? Everyday we post a picture – and you provide the caption and our staff will join in too. Tune in tonight at 10pm to see if you are our favorite! Here is the 'Beat 360°' pic:
A 'Jet-Skiing Grinch' cruises on the Potomac River December 24, 2009 in National Harbor, Maryland. This is the 22nd anniversary of the aquatic Christmas Eve show.
Have fun with it. We're looking forward to your captions! Make sure to include your name, city, state (or country) so we can post your comment.
Candy Crowley and Mike Roselli
"THE REAL REASON WHY AN AMBULANCE WAS CALLED TO THE OBAMA COMPOUND IN HAWAII.”
LaSandra Oliver, Gulfport, Mississippi
"How the Grinch stole President Obama's jet ski!"
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/TRAVEL/12/28/terror.alert.advice.international/t1larg.texas.security.airport.getty.jpg caption="YA TSA officer screens airline passengers at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport December 27, 2009 in Dallas, Texas" width=416 height=234]
International air passengers face tightened security on U.S.-bound flights following the alleged attempt by Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to bomb a Christmas Day flight heading for Detroit.
U.S. travel and security authorities, international airlines and airports and aviation organizations have all moved quickly to implement a range of measures that will impact travelers' normal routine.
Which flights are affected by the new measures?
At present only flights to the United States are affected.
What are the measures?
The Transportation Security Administration, which oversees the security for U.S. travel, says it has issued a directive for additional security measures to be implemented for flights as they leave their last stop before the United States.
The authority has not made public the directive. But it said in a statement that passengers can expect to see extra security "at international airports such as increased gate screening including pat-downs and bag searches. During flight, passengers will be asked to follow flight crew instructions, such as stowing personal items, turning off electronic equipment and remaining seated during certain portions of the flight."
Individual airlines and airports will each interpret the TSA directive in their own way. But anecdotal advice suggests that passengers are not allowed to leave their seats for the bathroom or to access luggage during the final hour of any flight, nor keep blankets or pillows on their laps.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/12/28/iran.protest.jpg caption="Police motorcycles burn as an Iranian opposition protester aims a stone at security forces during clashes in Tehran"]
The "green movement" protesters at the center of unrest in Iran are seen as liberal, pro-democracy and friendly to America and the West. As protests and the Iranian government's backlash continue to escalate, many in the U.S. are searching for how America can best help the protesters in their cause. Iran's leadership, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, have been the target of much pressure from the West, which seeks to halt Iran's growing nuclear program. Sanctions have been under discussion since the discovery of an Iranian nuclear weapons program in September. But leaders of Iran's green movement still join with Khamenei in protesting sanctions. Is there anything the U.S. can do?
* U.S. Intervention Harms Protesters The Washington Note's Steve Clemons cautions, "The United States needs to be very cautious - and not do anything on the ground in Iran that would allow the incumbent government to to evade "the death to the dictator" chants directed at it by distracting the country with evidence of credible external interventions."
* Only Finely Targeted Sanctions Would Work Spencer Ackerman reports the White House's growing fear that sanctions could hurt the protesters. "Green leaders like Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Kerroubi have staked out an even more nationalistic stance than President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, urging him to reject a deal offered by the Obama administration that would tamp down international tensions over Iran’s nuclear program." Ackerman notes that sanctions limited to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps are considered more viable.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/12/28/prince.nayef.attack.newspaper.jpg caption="A man reads a newspaper featuring a front-page story on the attack on Saudi deputy interior minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef."]
Peter Bergen | BIO
CNN National Security Analyst
On August 28, the Saudi Arabian deputy minister of interior, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, survived a bombing attack launched by an al Qaeda cell based in Yemen, Saudi Arabia's southern neighbor.
Abdullah Hassan al Asiri, the would-be assassin, a Saudi who had fled to Yemen, posed as a militant willing to surrender personally to Prince Nayef.
Because he leads Saudi Arabia's counterterrorism efforts against al Qaeda, the prince is a key target for the terrorist group.
Al Asiri concealed the bomb, made of PETN, in his underwear, according to the official Saudi investigation.
PETN is a plastic explosive that is not picked up by metal detectors - through which the would-be assassin had to pass before he was allowed to meet with the prince.
Saudi officials believe that the prince's assailant exploded the 100-gram device using a detonator with a chemical fuse, which would also not be detected by a metal detector.