London: British authorities on Friday refused to comment on reports that the double agent who infiltrated al-Qaeda and helped foil the plot to blow up a US-bound airliner held a British passport.
The mole was sent by Saudi counterterrorism agents into Yemen after the Saudis learned from other informants that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was developing a new version of the underwear bomb that failed to explode in a Christmas Day 2009 attempt.
British newspapers, quoting unnamed British officials, said the man was born in Saudi Arabia but grew up in Europe before obtaining a British passport.
The Times newspaper, quoting unnamed British officials, reported that he was recruited by Britain's MI5 domestic intelligence service after he became involved in Europe with jihadist groups.
His pro-jihadi background gave him enough credibility to win the trust of al-Qaeda operatives, the reports said, while his British passport enhanced his value to Al-Qaeda because he could travel without a visa to the United States.
British officials were tightlipped about the claims.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office told AFP: "It is a long-held government position that we don't comment on intelligence matters."
CNN said the man infiltrated the AQAP group and when he learned two or three months ago that the group was working on a new device to bomb a US-bound plane, he contacted Saudi counterterrorism officials from Yemen.
The reports said that after the mole tipped off Saudi intelligence, the Saudis informed the Americans of the planned operation and let them know that they had succeeded in infiltrating the group.
The agent has now been evacuated from Yemen, the reports said.
The new details about the Saudi mole and the failed al-Qaeda bomb plot come after US spy chief James Clapper earlier this week ordered an inquiry into leaks to media about the top secret operation.
A senior British official told The Times that a meeting had been held in London over the leaks of information had left some participants "slack-jawed" at the level of detail that had emerged in the United States.
The Daily Telegraph said British security services are unhappy that their role in foiling the plot has become known, fearing it may jeopardise the recruitment of future agents.



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