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Revealed: Printer cartridge bomb had travelled on two passenger planes before it was discovered
02 November 2010 @ 00:27

Source: Daily Record

A COMPUTER engineering student and her mother were grilled by intelligence officers yesterday over a chilling plot to blow up planes.

Student Hanan al-Samawi, 22, and her 45-year-old mother were arrested after security forces swooped on their home in Sanaa, capital of Yemen.

It is claimed that the student was traced because her phone number was on at least one of the packages.

Meanwhile, it emerged one of the two bombs found hidden in printer toner cartridges had been carried on two passenger planes.

That package was seized at Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

It had been carried by a Qatar Airbus A320 from Sanaa to Doha in Qatar, then on another Qatar Airlines flight to Dubai.

A second device originating in Yemen was found at East Midlands Airport, near Derby.

And PM David Cameron said last night he believed that device was intended to detonate in mid-air.

Home Secretary Theresa May confirmed the bomb found in Britain could have blown up an aircraft.

Yemeni security officials said at least five other suspects were also quizzed yesterday over the bombs, addressed to synagogues in Chicago.

A number of employees of the shipping companies involved, including two from FedEx, are being investigated.

And they are seeking further information from Saudi Arabia, who are understood to have provided the original tip-off about the plot.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula - who were formed in January 2009 - are thought to be behind the foiled attack.

In Washington, President Obama's counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan said they "have to presume" there might be more bombs of a similar kind.

Last night, al-Samawi, a student at Sanaa University, was freed but the Yemeni authorities said she could still face further questioning.

It followed a wave of protests by students at the university and claims that she might have been set up.

Earlier, Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh said the US and UAE had provided intelligence that helped identify her.

It's also understood a SIM card which formed part of one bomb was linked to al-Samawi.

But Abdel-Rahman Barman, of The National Organisation for Defending Rights and Freedoms, said she was not known to have ties to Islamic groups or be involved in any political activity.

Barman said the Sanaa University student had not been allowed access to a lawyer.

He added: "I'm concerned the girl is a victim because it doesn't make sense the person who would do this kind of operation would leave a picture of their ID and their phone number."

Police were also hunting Yemen - the poorest country in the Middle East - for more conspirators, who are thought to have forged documents and identity cards.

Last night, it emerged that the UK device nearly slipped past investigators.

Following the initial tip-off on Friday, they launched an immediate security sweep of cargo at East Midlands Airport.

After a six-hour search, Leicestershire Police gave the airport the all-clear and removed the security perimeter they had set up.

But when officials in Dubai said they had found a bomb disguised as a printer cartridge, authorities urged British officials to look again, according to a US official speaking on condition of anonymity.

UK aviation security consultant Chris Yates, who claimed to have been given a report by a witness, added: "As a direct consequence, they put the cordon back up again and looked again and found the explosives."

The device found in Dubai had been sent via FedEx, while the UK one was posted with UPS. Both were mailed from Sanaa.

White House counter-terrorism chief Brennan said forensic evidence suggested the maker of the printer bombs was also behind the failed "underpants bomb" plot to blow up a jet over Detroit last Christmas.

AQAP claimed responsibility for the latter attack.

Experts said last night the ink bomb plot aimed to exploit variations in worldwide cargo shipping secruity.

US inspectors were heading to Yemen yesterday to monitor cargo security practices and pinpoint holes in the system.

Meanwhile, Home Secretary May pledged to review the UK's air freight security. She said: "Certainly, we have to look at our processes of searching and how we detect these devices."

Referring to the bomb found in the UK, May added: "The crucial thing is we did find it and we were able to take action on it."

She said all unaccompanied freight from Yemen had now been banned from the UK.

Brennan branded AQAP a "dangerous and determined group".

He added: "They are still at war with us and we are very much at war with them. They are going to try to identify vulnerabilities that might exist in the system.

And he insisted the US "will destroy that organisation as we are going to destroy the rest of al-Qaeda".

TIME LINE

Early Hours Of Last Friday: Alert raised at East Midlands Airport after a tip-off about suspect packages concealed on planes.

Security cordon put in place, then lifted. 0900: Suspect package found on FedEx plane in Dubai.

1300: Security cordon reinstated at East Midlands Airport, where a suspect device is found on a UPS plane.

1700: FBI say two suspect packages were addressed to religious buildings in Chicago.

1835: Emirates Flight 201 from Yemen via Dubai lands at JFK airport, New York, escorted by US fighter jets. The plane is carrying a package from Yemen.

1845: FedEx in Dubai confirm they have confiscated a suspect package sent from Yemen and are suspending all shipments from Dubai.

1900: Two other FedEx flights investigated after landing at Newark, New Jersey, and Philadelphia.

Both flights later receive the all-clear.

2330: BA flight from London to New York (JFK) met by US officials as a "precautionary measure".

THE NEW BIN LADEN

Anwar al-Awlaki is thought to have organised the plot to blow up planes.

The radical American Muslim cleric is head of AQAP.

He is suspected of involvement in a string of plots around the world, including the World Trade Centre attacks on September 11, 2001.

His internet sermons promoting violence as religious duty are thought to have recruited militants.

Al-Awlaki - the son of a former Yemeni agriculture minister - was born in 1971 in New Mexico, where his father was studying.

He spent his teenage years in Yemen before returning to the US to gain a civil engineering degree and education masters.

For four years he was an imam at a mosque in Fort Collins, Colorado, attended by two future 9/11 hijackers, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi.

In 2001, he moved to a mosque in Falls Church, Virginia, which was visited by Hazmi and third hijacker Hani Hanjour.

A year later, he moved to the UK where he lectured Muslim youths before returning, in 2004, to his ancestral village in the southern Yemeni province of Shabwa with his wife and children.

He lectured at Sanaa's al-Iman University, headed by UN-designated terrorist Abdul-Majid al-Zindani.

Students there included John Walker Lindh - known as the "American Taliban" - and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian who tried to blow up a passenger plane over Detroit last Christmas.

Al-Awlaki was detained by Yemeni authorities in 2006 on charges relating to a plot to kidnap a US military official.

He gave religious advice to Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the US Army psychiatrist who killed 13 people at Fort Hood military base in Texas last November 5.

THE BOMBMAKER

The terrorist suspected of making the printer bombs has been named as Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri.

The Yemen-based extremist, who was born in Saudi Arabia, is one of the most ruthless and fanatical al-Qaeda footsoldiers.

US investigators say the devices found last Friday contain the explosive PETN. It's the same explosive as the one that Asiri is thought to have made for underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who carried out a failed mid-air attack on a plane over Detroit last Christmas.

Two years ago, Asiri, 28, fled to Yemen from Saudi Arabia with his brother Abdullah and joined al-Qaeda.

Asiri made explosives for Abdullah, 23, to use in a suicide bomb attempt on the life of Saudi minister Prince Muhammad Abdul Aziz Al-Saud.

The prince promotes attempts to reform militants and Abdullah posed as a repentant jihadist in order to get close to him.

Abdullah detonated a bomb hidden inside his body, killing himself but failing to take the prince's life.

Saudi Arabia put Asiri at the top of their terrorism list in 2009.

THE BOMB

The two bombs contained PETN, or pentaerythritol tetranitrate.

PETN is a terrorist's favourite because its colourless crystals are hard to detect in a sealed container.

About 100g could destroy a car.

It is a fine white powder that resembles sugar or salt. PETN is an ingredient of Semtex, can be used in angina medicine and belongs to the same chemical family as nitroglycerin.

The explosive is relatively stable and is detonated either by heat or a shockwave.

Shoe bomber Richard Reid tried to set off a PETN device on an American Airlines jet to Miami in 2001.

PETN was widely used in the plastic explosives favoured by terrorists in plots to blow up planes in the 1970s.



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