Thursday, December 31, 2009

Somalia Frees Suspect In Thwarted Bombing

Somali authorities have freed an individual who was caught trying to bring the very kinds of materials on board an aircraft that nearly brought down Northwest Airlines Flight 253.
A Somali court acquitted and released a suspect who tried to board a plane in Mogadishu in November with chemicals and a syringe - materials similar to those used in the attempted attack against a Detroit-bound airliner.
The Somali individual gets to slink back into the woodwork - hiding in the safe havens of Somalia's lawlessness while the US and other law enforcement and intel services are thwarted in gaining valuable information needed about Abdul Mutallab's attempt to bring down Flight 253. The court ruled that he didn't have the intent to commit a crime.
Somali Police Commissioner Gen. Ali Hassan Loyan said the court released the suspect on Dec. 12 after ruling that officials hadn't demonstrated he intended to commit a crime. The man, whose name has not been released, said the chemicals were to process camera film.

In light of the attempted attack on the Detroit-bound plane, Gen. Loyan said Somali authorities would collaborate with U.S. officials and share information and the confiscated materials.

"Somalia's federal government affirms that it is ready to double its cooperation with the countries in the world, particularly with America, for it is clear that the incident that happened in Mogadishu and the one that happened in a region in America are similar," Gen. Loyan told a news conference in the Somali capital.

U.S. officials on Wednesday learned about the early November incident at Mogadishu's international airport and began investigating for links between it and the Detroit case.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said U.S. investigators were working with Somali authorities, and linking the case to the Christmas attack "would be speculative at this point."

A Nairobi-based diplomat, though, said the incident has similarities to the attempted attack on the Detroit-bound plane. The Somali was said to have a syringe, liquid and powdered chemicals -- tools similar to those used by the Nigerian suspect on Northwest Airlines Flight 253. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information.
If the two incidents are linked, then Somalia's actions to release the Somali individual was a colossal mistake. Moreover, the reasoning of the Somali court is just baffling given that police experts claimed that the materials taken from the Somali individual were sufficient to endanger the aircraft, though an expert said it was insufficient to take down the aircraft. So, bringing dangerous materials on board an aircraft was somehow insufficient to result in criminal charges and a conviction in a Somali court.

Meanwhile, other nations are bolstering their security protocols as a result of Mutallab's attack.

It is once again a reminder that we are only as safe as the weakest link in the security chain particularly as terrorists continue to probe our defenses and find our weaknesses.

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