Entries in Ibrahim al-Asiri (2)


Al Qaeda Bombmaker Designs Bombs to Hide in Cameras, Hard Drives and Pets

Saudi Interior Ministry/Landov(NEW YORK) -- At the age of only 30, the al Qaeda bombmaker behind the foiled plot on U.S-bound planes has emerged as the most feared face of terror for American authorities, a master technician with a fierce hatred for America and ingenious plans for hiding hard-to-detect bombs inside cameras, computers and even household pets.

Again and again, Ibrahim al-Asiri has created bombs that get past security screening -- the underwear bomb targeting a Detroit-bound jet in 2009, bombs hidden in printer cartridges set to explode over Chicago, even a bomb hidden in the body of a younger brother who was sent on a suicide mission against a Saudi official.

A Saudi citizen who studied chemistry in college, al-Asiri's parents say he became radicalized after the death of a brother.

"It makes him dangerous," said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., chair of House Homeland Security Committee, "and it's clear that we want to make sure that he doesn't have the opportunity to...continue to do, to build any device whatsoever, or impart his knowledge to anyone else who wants to build these devices."

U.S. authorities tell ABC News that al-Asiri's latest designs involve bombs surgically implanted in terrorists, as well as bombs hidden in pets to be carried on aircraft, cameras, and external hard drives that would explode when plugged into a laptop computer.

"[He's] very innovative in trying to find some way to get a bomb onto an airplane that will evade detection from airport screeners," explains Seth Jones, former senior advisor to the U.S. Special Operations Command and author of the just-published Hunting in the Shadows: The Pursuit of al Qa'ida since 9/11.

The bombmaker's hatred of the U.S. adds to the threat. "Ibrahim al-Asiri absolutely hates the United States," said Jones. "[He] hates what the U.S. culture has brought to the world. [He]'s a violent supporter of the ideology of Osama bin Laden and has tried desperately, as hard as he can, to put a bomb together that will detonate and kill as many Americans as he can. He hates American ideology. He hates Western values."

Jones said that al-Asiri is also "operationally very savvy." According to Jones, he not only designed and built the device that underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to use to take down Northwest flight 253, he was also worked with AQAP leader Anwar al-Awlaki on how to preserve the bomb and how to detonate it for maximum effect. Said Jones, "In other words he's not just building the material himself, he's interested in working with the operatives so that they can actually detonate it and kill as many Americans as possible."

Because of the threat of al-Asiri and his al Qaeda group, AQAP, the United States has vastly expanded its drone operations in Yemen, with the U.S. military and the CIA given the freedom to operate in large zones.

Al-Asiri has survived at least one U.S. drone strike in the last year.

While al-Asiri and al Qaeda's latest plot was foiled by a double agent working for U.S. and allied intelligence agencies, authorities tell ABC News there are several other plots aimed at U.S. airlines that are at the least in planning stages if not further along.

Now, the FBI continues to pore over the latest al-Asiri bomb that the double agent was able to bring out of Yemen, but at airports across the country security officials say they have yet to be briefed or receive any concrete guidance about the details of the bomb or what steps need to be taken to guard against it.

Al-Asiri's twisted genius means the threat from al Qaeda remains very real and active. But even if he were to be killed by a drone strike, said Jones, the threat would not disappear.

"Taking out al-Asiri would take out the most competent bombmaker in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula," he said. "But as we've seen in Pakistan with senior al Qaeda leaders, they can replace these individuals. It may not be with somebody as technically savvy for the moment, but just taking somebody out does not mean that the problem goes away. They have other bomb experts, so they will try again."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Officials: Al Qaeda Bombmaker Not Killed in Awlaki Strike

Stocktrek Images/Getty Images(SANA'A, Yemen) -- Al Qaeda bombmaker Ibrahim al-Asiri was apparently not killed in the drone strike in Yemen last week that killed Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, say both Yemeni and U.S. officials, despite initial reports that he may have died with the two al Qaeda leaders.

A senior U.S. official told ABC News that while it was initially believed -- based on Yemeni sources -- that al-Asiri was among those killed by Hellfire missiles, they now know it was not him.  Yemeni officials have also now told ABC News that al-Asiri was not killed in the strike.

Al-Asiri, a 29-year-old Saudi, is believed to have constructed both the "underwear" bomb used in the attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas 2009 and the bombs in last year's printer bomb plot.

His fingerprint was found on the bomb allegedly packed into the underwear of Umar Abdulmutallab, accused of trying to bring down Northwest 253 over Detroit.  The two printer bombs discovered last November included toner cartridges packed with explosives, and circuitry taken from cellphones.  The bombs were shipped via UPS and FedEx to the United States from Yemen, but were intercepted en route in Dubai and Britain.

The chief target of Friday's drone strike, radical American-born cleric al-Awlaki, was a major al Qaeda figure who U.S. officials say inspired numerous terror plots against the United States.  A senior U.S. official told ABC News the United States had been tracking the high-profile jihadist for some time and had just been waiting for the perfect moment to strike.

President Obama said in an announcement Friday that al-Awlaki's death was a "major blow" to al Qaeda's most operational affiliate, the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and that the successful operation against him was a tribute to the intelligence community.

In 2010, al-Awlaki was declared a "specially designated global terrorist" and became the first U.S. citizen ever to be placed on a White House-approved list for targeted killing.  He nearly met his fate shortly after Navy SEALs killed al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in early May, when a drone strike hit the convoy in which he was traveling but barely missed him.

Earlier this year, America's chief counter-terrorism official Michael Leiter called him and AQAP "probably the most significant risk to the U.S. homeland."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio