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Airline bombing suspect talks as FBI flies in family

The Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a US airliner on Christmas Day has provided "useful, actionable" intelligence to US authorities after the FBI flew his relatives to the United States to urge him to cooperate, US officials said.

And top US intelligence officials, testifying on Capitol Hill about the attempted bombing and other security threats, said al-Qai'da and its allies were "certain" to try to attack US territory again within the next six months.

The bombing suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (23) started talking again after FBI agents brought family members from Nigeria to help convince him to provide information on how the botched December 25 bomb plot was arranged and whether further attacks were in the works, a senior US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He is alleged to have mounted the attack with help from a Yemen-based al-Qai'da branch.

"I'm confident he's going to continue to cooperate," the official said, although he declined to say whether Abdulmutallab had been offered a plea deal or leniency in exchange for answering questions again.

The Obama administration has been criticised by Republicans and Democrats because Abdulmutallab was interviewed by FBI agents for about an hour before he stopped cooperating and he was then read his so-called Miranda rights, providing him full US constitutional legal protections.

They questioned if that prevented getting intelligence.

Prosecutors charged Abdulmutallab with trying to blow up the flight from Amsterdam to Detroit with a bomb sewn into his underwear, drawing further criticism from some lawmakers who said he should face a special military tribunal instead and questioning by intelligence operatives instead of the FBI.

"Abdulmutallab is talking and has been talking since last week providing useful, actionable and current intelligence that we've been actively following up on," a US law enforcement official said, declining to be named because the investigation is ongoing.

If convicted, Abdulmutallab could spend the rest of his life in prison, a fate that may provide an incentive for him to cooperate with FBI investigators interrogating him.