Sunday, October 31, 2010

Investigations Continue Into Cargo Bomb Plot

The cargo bomb plot's links to al Qaeda are firming up. The bombs' hallmarks indicate one of al Qaeda's bombmakers in Yemen, and the intentions and plot are more sophisticated than previously released.

And the bombs actually flew on passenger planes before being transferred to cargo flights
The explosive found hidden in a package on a plane in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Friday, had traveled on two passenger planes to get there, a Qatar Airways spokesman told CNN Sunday.

Edward Cameron did not say which flights they were or how many people were on board.

Al Qaeda bomb maker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, 28, who is thought to be in Yemen, is linked to that package and another one found on a second airplane in the United Kingdom on Friday, a federal official told CNN Sunday.

Separately, an engineering student has been arrested in Yemen as authorities investigate the apparent plot to bomb airplanes with devices hidden inside computer printers, a human rights lawyer in the poor Arab country told CNN.

The student, Hanan Al-Samawi, is a fifth-year student at Sanaa University, in the capital, said Abdul-Rahman Barman, who said he has been asked to represent her.

Her mother, Amatulillah Mohammed, has also been arrested, Barman said, calling the arrest of the mother illegal.
The bombs were put together by the same terrorist who designed the underwear bomb worn by Abdul Farouk Abdul Mutallab last December 25th. The explosive involved is the same in both incidents - PETN. Just six grams of the explosive can be sufficient to blow a hole in the fuselage of an aircraft. A search for further explosive packages turned up nothing. It's not clear how the Saudis got tipped off to the bomb plot, or how or where the bombs were set to explode.
It's unclear how the Saudis were clued in, but earlier this month, a leader of Al Qaeda in Yemen, Jabir Jubran al Fayfi, turned himself in to the Saudi government. Picked up by American forces in Afghanistan in 2001, he had been held in Guantanamo Bay before being turned over to the Saudis. He went through a rehabilitation program for militants and was released, only to rejoin al Qaeda in 2006.

But al Fayfi contacted Saudi authorities from Yemen to express his regret and readiness to surrender, the Saudi Interior Ministry said in a statement Oct 15.

Authorities were still investigating whether the plot sought to blow up the cargo planes in midair or upon landing -— or whether the bombs were intended for the Chicago addresses on the packages.

British Home Secretary Theresa May said in London Saturday that the device found at the East Midlands airport "was viable and could have exploded. The target may have been an aircraft and had it detonated the aircraft could have been brought down."

She added, "We do not believe that the perpetrators of the attack would have known the location of the device when it was planned to explode."
There's no word of how the bombs were going to detonate - whether they had a timer or altitude sensor or other methods to cause the bombs to explode. Investigators are probably keeping those details secret for now while they continue working back to the terror cell that carried out the plot.

It's possible that the explosives were meant to blow up the planes over urban areas - spreading devastation over a wide area. Or they could have been meant to blow up the planes over the ocean to obscure the cause and make tracing the attack back to the perpetrators. A third possibility is to detonate the bombs on landing - causing the maximum amount of damage to the airport destinations.

The British government says that they are going to look at tightening cargo security, but the fact that these explosives found their way on passenger planes before they were ultimately discovered on the cargo flights in Dubai and East Midlands Airport shows that there are serious holes in air security.

Air security is only as good as its weakest link. Al Qaeda is going to continue exploiting air security gaps, and Yemen is a huge hole in air security worldwide. Containment is absolutely critical meaning that air security must screen packages and cargo coming from the country much more closely than they have to date.

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