(WASHINGTON) -- In the wake of last week’s discovery of bombs packed in printer toner cartridges bound for the U.S, the governments of Britain, France and Germany have suspended cargo shipments from Yemen, which American officials say was the source of the explosives.
Most fingers are pointing to the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula group as the likely culprits, with suspicion falling on Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, the terrorist group’s top bomb builder. U.S. intelligence officials contend al-Asiri also constructed the bomb that Nigerian Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly carried in his underwear in the failed bomb attempt on Northwest Flight 253 that was headed for Detroit last Christmas Day.
German authorities also offered more information about the bomb that passed through Cologne that was eventually detected at the East Midlands Airport in England. They said the bomb unknowingly transported by UPS contained 14 ounces of the powerful explosive PETN, which is the equivalent of about five sticks of TNT. One stick of TNT can easily destroy an average house.
The other bomb found by security officials in Dubai contained slightly less PETN but in both cases, there was enough of the explosive in each package to blow the cargo planes out of the sky.
That’s the latest theory that Western intelligence officials are working on. While the packages were intended to be delivered to synagogues in Chicago, the bomb plotters may have actually been more concerned with destroying the planes in an effort to cripple the air transport industry, which has come under increasing scrutiny because of safety lapses.
In other developments, there was a report that a former al Qaeda insider tipped off Saudi authorities to the scheme two weeks ago. The man, a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was returned to Saudi Arabia four years ago for rehabilitation but escaped and fled to Yemen.
It was Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief who tipped off White House counterterrorism head John Brennan last week to the possibility of bombs aboard cargo planes headed to the U.S.
Authorities in Yemen are also still searching for a woman who apparently brought the explosive-laden packages to freight companies.
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