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Plane bomb suspect was at militant camp: video

By Cynthia Johnston

DUBAI (Reuters) - A Nigerian man suspected of attempting to bomb a U.S.-bound plane in December appeared to have attended a militant training course, according to a videotape said to have been made by al Qaeda in Yemen.

The video, which also contains footage of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in an apparent martyr's farewell, shows masked gunmen in a desert firing machine guns and rocket propelled grenades at targets including a small plane flying overhead.

"Your brotherhood of Muslims in the Arabian peninsula have the right to wage jihad because the enemy is in your country," Abdulmutallab said on the tape, broadcast by ABC news shortly after a suspected al Qaeda suicide bomber tried to kill Britain's ambassador to Yemen on Monday.

"The enemy is in your country with its army of Jews, Christians and their agents," he said in his message, apparently recorded ahead of the botched plane attack.

The video, along with a tape of a U.S.-born Muslim cleric linked to al Qaeda in Yemen that also surfaced on Monday, adds to mounting evidence on the strength of al Qaeda's foothold in the impoverished Arabian peninsula state.

Al Qaeda's Yemen-based regional arm claimed responsibility for the failed December attack in which Abdulmutallab, who had spent time in Yemen, is accused of trying to blow up a U.S.-bound passenger plane with a bomb sewn into his underwear.

That attack thrust Yemen, next door to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, to the forefront of Western security concerns and raised fears al Qaeda was trying to exploit chaos in Yemen to use it as a launchpad for more attacks in the region and beyond.

Abdulmutallab is shown in the video, which ABC said was produced by al Qaeda in Yemen, handling an automatic weapon while sitting among gunmen in the desert.

The video also shows militants firing on makeshift targets including a Star of David and a British flag, and conducting exercises on a training course dotted with black tires.

U.S. law enforcement officials have said Abdulmutallab, who faces trial in the United States, told them that he had received training as well as the explosive device from militants in Yemen affiliated with al Qaeda.

U.S.-BORN CLERIC SURFACES

The tapes of the two suspected militants, both with a connection to Yemen, surfaced shortly after a failed attack on the British ambassador's convoy in Sanaa that Yemen's interior ministry said bore the hallmarks of al Qaeda.

Yemen security officials said on Tuesday dozens of suspected militants had been arrested in connection with that attack, which analysts said suggested al Qaeda still posed a significant threat in Yemen, where Osama bin Laden's father was born.

U.S.-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, in a tape that aired on Arab satellite channel al Jazeera, said he had taught both Abdulmutallab and a U.S. Army psychiatrist who shot dead 13 people at a Texas base last year.

Yemen has carried out air strikes to target al Qaeda leaders, but U.S. officials believe Awlaki remains in hiding.

The Obama administration has authorized operations to capture or kill Awlaki, described by a key lawmaker as America's top terrorist threat, officials said earlier this month.

The decision to add Awlaki, who is of Yemeni origin, to the U.S. target list followed a National Security Council review prompted by his status as a U.S. citizen. Officials said Awlaki directly threatened the United States.

Born in New Mexico, Awlaki returned to Yemen in 2004 where he taught at a university before he was arrested in 2006 for suspected links to al Qaeda and involvement in attacks.

Awlaki was released in December 2007 because he said he had repented, according to a Yemeni security official. But he was later charged again on similar counts and went into hiding.

(Additional reporting by Erika Solomon; Writing by Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Dominic Evans)

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