The Evil in Our Midst; SUNDAY FOCUS: Explosives Found on Two Planes Bound for Chicago Have Thrust Al Qaeda and the Deadly Threat to Air Passengers Back to the Top of the International Agenda. SAM MALONE Looks into a Murderous World

Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales), October 31, 2010 | Go to article overview

The Evil in Our Midst; SUNDAY FOCUS: Explosives Found on Two Planes Bound for Chicago Have Thrust Al Qaeda and the Deadly Threat to Air Passengers Back to the Top of the International Agenda. SAM MALONE Looks into a Murderous World


Byline: Steffan Rhys

What exactly was found on the planes? The packages found on planes at East Midlands Airport and in Dubai were printer cartridges with wires attached.

They also contained the powerful explosive PETN and bore the hallmarks of Al Qaeda.

This is the same chemical used by the so-called Underpants Bomber in the alleged plot to blow up a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day last year.

The explosive device found in the UK was hidden in the cartridge and was powerful enough to blow a plane out of the sky. It was "viable" and could have exploded.

The bomb discovered in Dubai was discovered in an ink cartridge.

The device was rigged to an electric circuit, and a mobile phone chip was hidden inside the printer, as well as the compound lead azide, which can be used in detonators.

The bombs, sent from Yemen, were prepared in a "professional manner".

Is another attack imminent? Theories abound that this was a dry run for another attack. However, it may be that these bombs were intended to explode because they were "viable".

Yemeni authorities were last night checking 24 other packages in the capital Sana'a.

Authorities were also questioning cargo workers at the airport as well as employees of local shipping companies contracted to work with FedEx and UPS, on whose planes the packages were discovered.

But Home Secretary Theresa May said last night: "At this stage we have no information to indicate another attack is imminent."

The UK's threat level is already at severe, meaning that a terrorist attack in this country is highly likely. That will not be changed yet.

However, "further precautionary measures" are being taken. The movement of all unaccompanied air freight from Yemen into or through the UK is being halted, as it was in January after the Christmas bomb plot.

Who is responsible? These attacks bore the hallmarks of Al Qaeda.

Dubai Police said last night the parcel there was "prepared in a professional manner". A closed electrical circuit was connected to a mobile phone SIM card hidden inside the printer, a tactic used previously by terrorist organisations such as Al Qaeda.

The finds have been linked to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), based in Yemen, the same organisation that claimed responsibility for the Christmas Day attempt.

Who or what is AQAP? US officials are already confident AQAP, or Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is responsible for the latest attack.

It is an active offshoot of terror overlord Al Qaeda and top of the suspect list, singled out by US president Barack Obama as planning "attacks against our homeland, our citizens, and our friends and allies".

The group was linked to the Detroit Christmas Day bomb plot last year. AQAP was formed in January last year from a merger between two regional strands of Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia and neighbouring Yemen.

Officials now estimate it has several hundred members, including key figure Anwar al-Awlaki - supposedly a mentor for some of the 9/11 attackers.

Led by a former aide to Osama Bin Laden, its members have vowed to attack foreigners and security forces as part of an effort to topple the Saudi and Yemeni governments and establish an Islamic state.

AQAP has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks in the two countries over the past 12 months.

A former London-based student charged in relation to the Christmas Day incident, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, has allegedly told investigators AQAP operatives trained him in Yemen and organised his mission.

The group's previous incarnation is believed to have been behind some deadly attacks on foreign compounds in Saudi Arabia, including simultaneous suicide bombing attacks in May 2003 on three Western housing compounds in Riyadh, which left 29 dead.

Al Qaeda activists migrated to Yemen over the next few years as militants took advantage of the weak central government and anti-western sentiment in the country. …

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