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Drone attack, foiled Yemen bomb plot linked: congressman

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Members of the anti-terrorism squad are seen surrounding the compound where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad May 4, 2011. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood
Members of the anti-terrorism squad are seen surrounding the compound where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad May 4, 2011. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A suspected U.S. drone strike in Yemen that killed two members of al Qaeda on Sunday was part of a larger effort to intercept a more advanced "underwear bomb," the chairman of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee said on Tuesday.

"I was told by the White House that they are connected, that they are part of the same operation," Representative Peter King told CNN a day after news of the intercepted bomb that authorities said was intended to make its way to an airplane bound for the United States or other Western country.

King and U.S. security officials did not say what happened to the suspected suicide bomber or if he was killed in the strike.

"The person who actually had the bomb is no longer a threat," King said.

John Brennan, President Barack Obama's top counter terrorism adviser and a former CIA official, told ABC's "Good Morning America" program that authorities are "confident that neither the device nor the intended user of this device pose a threat to us."

On Monday, the Obama administration said Middle East authorities had seized an improved underwear bomb within the last 10 days that they said shows al Qaeda's determination to build bombs that can pass through airport security systems.

A day earlier, two Yemeni members of al Qaeda were killed by a missile strike on their car, although Washington and Yemen do not acknowledge U.S. drone attacks on militants in the country.

U.S. officials have said the plot was detected in its early stages and that no U.S. airliner was ever at risk.

Brennan, who also spoke on NBC and CBS, said Americans boarding airplanes should feel confident that intelligence agencies are working to keep them safe and that officials are "confident that this redundant security system provides us the protection that we need."

U.S. officials have said the latest bomb incorporated design features which were somewhat more sophisticated than a bomb used in two attempted attacks in 2009.

King told CNN the bomb did not have any metal parts.

Asked if the new, more sophisticated underwear bomb could have gotten through current airport security checks, Brennan said it "was a threat from the standpoint of the design that we have been able to determine.

"Now we're trying to make sure that we take the measures that we need to prevent any other type of IED similarly constructed from getting through security," he told ABC.

(Editing by Vicki Allen)

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