The Washington Post has unconfirmed reports from a federal counterterror official that the suspect, 23-year-old Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab (aka Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab), claimed to have traveled to Yemen to receive al-Qaeda training and equipment in preparation for the attack.
If accurate, Abdulmutallab’s self-professed status as an al-Qaeda operative would be significant whether or not he turns out to have been acting on orders from an organized Jihadist cell. After a nine-year drubbing in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, al-Qaeda has come to function more as a brand than a terror network — and a tarnished and weakened brand at that. So Abdulmutallab could turn out to be a lone actor who invented the connection from whole cloth, but he could also represent a troubling, if abortive, comeback in the form of the first Qaeda-sponsored attack on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001.
The timing and origin of the attacks would also be highly significant in light of recent U.S. supported counterterror strikes against al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen.
There are additional details on the attack at NRO: On the News.