WASHINGTON - The US and Yemen are looking at new targets in Yemen for a potential retaliation strike, two senior American officials told CNN Tuesday following the failed Christmas Day attack on a Detroit-bound airliner, which al-Qaeda in
Yemen claims it organized.
According to CNN, the officials stressed the effort is aimed at being ready with options for the White House if President Barack Obama orders a retaliatory strike, adding that the effort is to see whether targets can be specifically linked to the airliner incident and its planning.
One of the officials was quoted by CNN as saying that the plan is part of a new classified agreement with the Yemeni government that the two countries will work together and that the US will remain publicly silent on its role in providing intelligence and weapons to conduct strikes.
The CNN report said that "by all accounts, the agreement would allow the US to fly cruise missiles, fighter jets or unmanned armed drones against targets in Yemen with the consent of that government."
Officials in Yemen are investigating whether the Nigerian suspected in the attempted attack spent time with al-Qaeda terrorists in the country in the months leading up to the botched bombing.
Administrators, teachers and fellow students at the San'a Institute for the Arabic Language, where Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had enrolled to study Arabic, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he attended school for only the month of Ramadan, which began in late August. That has raised questions about what he did during the rest of his stay, which continued into December.
Abdulmutallab, 23, told US officials after his arrest he received training and instructions from al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen, a law enforcement official has said.
According to Yemeni officials, Abdulmutallab spent another extended period in Yemen, from 2004-2005.
People at the school who knew Abdulmutallab said he was not openly extremist, though he expressed anger over Israel's actions against Palestinians in Gaza.
CNN further reported that Abdulmutallab's father spoke with a CIA official in Nigeria about his son's radicalization.
The official prepared a report on the meeting, but it was not disseminated by CIA headquarters, according to CNN, which cited an unidentified source.
Abdulmutallab's father, a prominent Nigerian banker, had relayed concerns about his son's behavior to the US Embassy in Abuja, but the son's name was never placed on a no-fly list.
AP and Reuters contributed to the report