U.S. President Barack Obama, for the first time, has publicly connected the suspect who tried to blow up a U.S.-bound passenger plane on Christmas Day to al-Qaida.
In his weekly address released early Saturday, Mr. Obama said it appeared a Yemeni affiliate of al-Qaida trained the suspect, "equipped him with...explosives, and directed him to attack" the plane "headed for America."
Mr. Obama said the group had attacked American targets before, including killing an American at the U.S. Embassy in Yemen in 2008. He said the U.S. government is strengthening its partnership with Yemen "to strike al-Qaida terrorists."
The president, who has been criticized by opposition Republicans for not taking strong enough action against militants and terrorists, defended his administration's efforts to end the war in Iraq and increase troop levels in Afghanistan. He said those actions are part of his strategy to "disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaida and its extremist allies."
Mr. Obama said he has received preliminary results of reviews he ordered into air travel screening procedures and a terrorist watchlist system, and expected final results in the coming days.
The president said he is working to ensure branches of security forces coordinate and are held accountable after the latest terrorist attempt.
In his first weekly address for the new year, Mr. Obama made a plea against partisanship, while allowing for debate, saying unity is what "this moment demands."