President Obama laid blame today on an al-Qaeda affiliate for the Christmas Day terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound airliner. In his most direct public language to date, the president described the path through Yemen of 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian accused of trying to destroy Northwest Flight 253. "We know that he traveled to Yemen, a country grappling with crushing poverty and deadly insurgencies. It appears that he joined an affiliate of al-Qaeda, and that this group—al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula—trained him, equipped him with those explosives and directed him to attack that plane headed for America," the president said in his weekly radio address.
"This is not the first time this group has targeted us," Obama said. "In recent years, they have bombed Yemeni government facilities and Western hotels, restaurants and embassies, including our embassy in 2008, killing one American." The president also said he'd made it a priority to strengthen the US partnership with Yemen to fight extremists, "training and equipping their security forces, sharing intelligence and working with them to strike al-Qaeda terrorists." The United States provided Yemen $67 million in training and support under the Pentagon's counterterrorism program last year. Only Pakistan got more, with some $112 million.