Underwear bomb agent was British

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AN undercover agent who foiled an al-Qaida plot to blow up a airliner with an underwear bomb is a UK national.

UK intelligence were said to have been “heavily involved” in recruiting the spy who infiltrated a terror group in Yemen in a rare coup for Western agencies.

Quoting sources briefed by Saudi counter-terrorism officials, US television networks yesterday said the individual grew up in Europe where he was apparently radicalised.

He was subsequently “turned” and recruited by Saudi agents last year, they said.

The reports were neither being confirmed nor denied in the UK.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is believed to have been planning the spectacular attack on a US-based airliner with a nearly-undetectable device around the anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden.

But the individual chosen to carry out the attack was an informant who handed over the bomb.

US officials said the would-be bomber was supposed to board a plane to the US and detonate the device inside the country.

FBI experts are examining the bomb to see if it could have passed through an airport and been taken on to a plane. It is said to have no metallic parts and used chemicals designed to evade security.

Officials said it was more sophisticated than one which failed to detonate on a flight over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. Both were designed to be carried in a passenger’s underwear, but the latest version contained a more advanced detonation system.