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Obama seeks answers on jetliner incident

The president, in his first public comments since arriving in Hawaii, says he wants to know how explosives were brought aboard the Northwest Airlines flight bound for Detroit.

December 28, 2009|By Alana Semuels
  • A photo released by the U.S. Marshals Service on Monday shows 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who has been charged with trying to destroy a Northwest Airlines plane en route to Denver from Amsterdam on Christmas Day.
A photo released by the U.S. Marshals Service on Monday shows 23-year-old… (U.S. Marshals Service )

Reporting from Honolulu — President Obama, taking time out from his Hawaiian vacation today to address the attempted terrorist attack against a jetliner on Christmas Day, said he is pressing officials to determine how a man managed to board an airliner with an incendiary device.

"We will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable," Obama said.

In his first public comment on the episode, the president spoke from the Kaneohe Marine base just five minutes from his vacation home in Kailua, Hawaii. He said he has asked his advisors to look into how Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab might have gotten an explosive aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 bound for Detroit on Friday.

The president said he also has instructed the government to look into current terrorism watch-list policies. Abdulmutallab was on a general counter-terrorism watch list that contains about 550,000 names, which is shared with airlines and foreign security agencies, but was not on any sort of no-fly list.

"This was a serious reminder of the dangers we face and of the nature of those who threaten our homeland," Obama said just after 10 a.m. Hawaii time.

Obama said that upon being informed of the attempted terror attack he directed that immediate steps be taken to ensure the safety of the traveling public, enhancing airport security and adding federal air marshals to flights leaving and arriving in the country.

He also ordered a review of the government's watch-list system and of all technologies and procedures related to air travel. The president also directed his national security team to keep pressuring would-be attackers, he said.

"Those who would slaughter innocent men, women and children must know that the U.S. will do more than to simply strengthen our defenses," he said.

It was Obama's first public statement since arriving in Hawaii on Christmas Eve.

He has spent the first few days of his vacation playing tennis, golfing, working out before dawn, and receiving constant updates on the security situation.

Obama took a few minutes at the end of his short speech to address the situation in Iran, where bloody clashes with government forces have killed at least eight people.

"We call upon the Iranian government to abide by international obligations that it has to respect rights of own people," he said.

alana.semuels@latimes.com

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