Yemen government confirms terror suspect studied there

WASHINGTON — The Yemeni Embassy here confirmed Monday that Umar Farouk Abdulmuttab, the Nigerian who allegedly set a fire on a Detroit-bound airliner Christmas Day in an apparent effort to down the aircraft, had studied Arabic there and that Yemeni officials found nothing suspicious about his request for a student visa in part because he had a valid visa from the United States.

In a statement, the embassy said Abdulmuttab was in Yemen from August to December. The embassy said Abdulmuttab had been granted a student visa previously to study at the same language institute.

"There was nothing suspicious about his intentions to visit Yemen, especially considering he had also visited the U.S. in the past," the statement said.

Abdulmuttab's U.S. visa was issued in mid 2008. His father, a former Nigerian economy minister and bank president, notified the U.S. embassy in November that he was concerned about his son's growing Islamic radicalism. U.S. officials entered Abdulmuttab's name on a list of people with suspected terrorist connections, but took no action to revoke his U.S. visa.

The Yemeni statement did not say when Abdulmuttab applied for his visa to study there. Abdulmuttab apparently left Yemen in December and traveled to Nigeria, where he purchased a ticket in mid December to travel to the United States via Amsterdam.

Below is the text of the embassy's statement:

Embassy of the Republic of YemenWashington, DCOffice of Media & Public Affairs

Press Statement

December 28, 2009

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Yemen has issued a statement condemning the recent attempted terrorist attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian national charged with attempting to blow up an American aircraft on route from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Detroit, United States of America.

Yemen has long suffered from terrorism and condemns such criminal acts that kill innocent civilians. Yemen is and remains an active partner of the international community in the war against terrorism. Efforts of Yemeni security agencies to continue ongoing operations and prosecutions against terrorist operatives from Al-Qaeda will not falter.

The Immigration and Passport Agency has confirmed that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was in Yemen during the period from early August to early December 2009 after obtaining a visa to study Arabic at a language institute. He has previously studied in the same institute. His passport had a valid U.S. visa and other foreign visas. There was nothing suspicious about his intentions to visit Yemen, especially considering he had also visited the U.S. in the past.

The statement reasserted that investigations are being conducted by Yemeni Security Agencies to identify any other individuals who may be linked to him, and immediate action will be taken against any accomplice(s) determined. The outcome of the investigation will be shared with the appropriate U.S. authorities. Indeed, the scope of US-Yemen bilateral law enforcement cooperation has been substantial and continues to deepen.

The statement reiterated the importance of international cooperation in the areas of intelligence sharing amongst nations; particularly for those linked to combating terrorism. Furthermore, the official statement expressed the crucial need to enhance security procedures at airports and border posts to prevent terrorist operatives from carrying on their destructive plans that could undermine global security and stability.


December 28, 2009

Ministry of the Foreign Affairs

Sana'a, Republic of Yemen

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