Thursday, November 4, 2010

Yemen Ink Bomb Defused 17 Minutes Before Detonatation

Via -

The ink bomb found at a British airport was defused just 17 minutes before it was due to explode, it was claimed yesterday.

Al Qaeda planners believed the plane carrying it would have been over the Atlantic or the U.S. mainland when it was primed to go off in a Lockerbie-style attack.

But the plane made an unscheduled refuelling stop at East Midlands Airport because of the weight of its cargo. Such was the expertise of the bombmaker and the sophistication of the device that it took a bomb disposal expert seven attempts to establish that it was viable and defuse it.

The bomb hidden in a printer cartridge contained 400 grams of the powerful explosive PETN – 50 times more than needed to punch a hole in the aircraft’s skin – and was wired to a mobile phone.

The SIM card had been removed so it could not receive calls and the Yemen-based bombmaker set up either the alarm or timer functions to detonate the device.

French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said yesterday it had been ‘defused only 17 minutes before the moment it was set to explode’ but did not elaborate.

Al Qaeda had carried out a ‘dry run’ to see how long the package would take to arrive in the U.S.

According to U.S. intelligence, the test run in mid-September involved a package containing books, a computer disc and religious literature, but no explosives. The aim was to allow bombmakers to work out the timing to trigger the device so it would cause maximum damage.


Home Secretary Theresa May likened the plot in a speech on Wednesday to Lockerbie and said : ‘It could have destroyed the aircraft on which it was being carried, over the UK, over the U.S. or on the ground.


Mr Hortefeux suggested yesterday that disaster had been just minutes away when he told told France’s state-run France-2 television: ‘One of the packages was defused only 17 minutes before the moment that it was set to explode.’

While police, government and intelligence sources in Britain refused to comment publicly, privately a number of senior security sources disputed the claim, saying they ‘did not recognise’ the 17-minute figure and stressing that tests were still taking place on the device.

However, when challenged, French officials repeated the time and said that the device referred to had been the one at East Midlands airport.

In the U.S., counter terrorism sources were quoted by CBS News as confirming that 17 minutes was left on the clock of the device found in the UK.

Investigators in Britain are said to be ‘angry and frustrated’ at the leaks surrounding the inquiry from the U.S. which they described as ‘damaging and counter productive’.

Meanwhile, German intelligence sources disclosed the plane had been forced to change schedule and stop in the UK because of the weight of the cargo.

If the plane had flown directly to the US, without stopping in Britain, then the device is likely to have gone off as it approached America.

As long as AQAP’s operational leaders and its bombmakers — like Ibrahim Hassan Tali al Asiri, brother of the suicide bomber in the Prince Mohammed bin Nayef attack — remain free, they will continue trying to exploit security vulnerabilities and attack U.S. and Saudi targets. So far, the group has come close to pulling off several spectacular attacks but has suffered unlucky breaks that have caused each attack to fail. However, to paraphrase an old Irish Republican Army taunt, they only have to get lucky once.

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