Package bomb plot is still “an active situation”

Warning to U.S. Citizens: “Next Day Delivery Plot” could be diversion for something more… See assessment below

By Douglas J. Hagmann, Director

1 November 2010: Intelligence officials from the U.S. and Great Britain have confiscated a total of 26 packages over the last three days, indicating that the “package bomb” attempt is much larger than being reported. More packages are being sought and every parcel originating from Yemen is being treated as a security threat, according to intelligence officials. Intelligence officials report that at least five suspects have been arrested and interrogated since Saturday in an effort to determine the operatives involved in the bombing attempt.  Several Yemeni employees of the shipping companies, including two from FedEx, are currently being investigated.

Of the numerous packages confiscated, two were found to contain explosive devices containing PETN based explosive material,  the very type warned about by the Northeast Intelligence Network on 17 October 2010 in this article. Both originated from Yemen and were addressed to Jewish synagogues in the Chicago area. They were intercepted by security officials in the UK and Dubai.

THE PACKAGE BOMBS

According to intelligence officials, both packages consisted of PETN based explosives expertly concealed inside printer toner cartridges. The cartridges were then carefully wrapped for shipping. At least one of the bombs cleared an initial inspection by authorities even though they were looking for such a device. Both devices had the ability to bring down an aircraft.

The bomb intercepted in Dubai contained a closed electrical circuit connected to a mobile phone SIM card, which was hidden inside a toner cartridge within a  Hewlett Packard printer.  Notably, the device could have been detonated through the use of the cellular phone components, an issue raised by this agency since 2006. The printer was in a box with a textbook on management,  a copy of The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot and various other handmade items, including a pink and purple lidded basket.

The second bomb was reportedly affixed to a mechanical timer that was to act as the detonator.

Both packages were addressed to Jewish synagogues in Chicago, although authorities suspect that at least one, if not both of the explosive devices were intended to be detonated while the plane was in flight.

ROUTES OF TRAVEL

Both intercepted packages were sent by UPS and FedEx from their offices in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.  The packages were transported by both cargo and passenger flights at different parts of their journeys. The bomb that was intercepted in Dubai was transported on two separate Qatar Airways passenger flights, initially from Yemen to Doha on an Airbus A 320 and then to Dubai on a Boeing 777.

The bomb that was intercepted in the UK also traveled through Dubai from Yemen, having passed through Cologne, Germany before reaching the UK.

THE BOMBER

Ibrahim Hassan Tali al-Asiri, a/k/a Abu Saleh

Ibrahim Hassan Tali al-Asiri a/k/a Abu Saleh

Ibrahim Hassan Tali al-Asiri, a/k/a Abu Saleh, 28, was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in April 1982. Throughout his early life, he lived with his family, including four brothers and three sisters, in Saudi Arabia. Based on intelligence reports, he was imprisoned in Saudi Arabia on undisclosed charges at one time, although was released.

According to intelligence officials, al-Asiri became closely associated with U.S. born al Qaeda terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki (a/k/a Anwar Nasser Abdulla Aulaqi) sometime in 2006 or 2007. In 2007, Ibrahim al-Asiri and his younger brother, Abdullah, 23 at that time, left the family home in Mecca shortly before the al-Asiri family’s planned return to Riyadh.

According Hassan al-Asiri, a retired Saudi soldier and the father of both Ibrahim and Abdullah, the next time he heard anything about his sons was when he learned of the assassination attempt of Saudi’s security chief, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in August 2009. That attempt was orchestrated by  Ibrahim al-Asiri, who reportedly conspired with his younger brother Abdullah to kill the Saudi security chief by concealing an explosive device containing about 100g of PETN inside his body that was detonated by a chemical fuse.

Under the pretext of wanting to surrender in person to the prince, the younger Abdullah was flown to of Jeddah, where he met with Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. During that meeting, Abdullah al-Asiri detonated the explosive device but only caused minor injuries to the Saudi prince. Abdullah, however, was blown in half by the explosion. Ibrahim al-Asiri reportedly built the bomb and assisted his brother to conceal it on his person.

Ibrahim al-Asiri is wanted for his role in several high profile terror operations, including his involvement in the failed Christmas Day 2009 bombing attempt of a passenger aircraft  as it flew into Detroit. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, known as the underwear bomber, was arrested for attempting to ignite an explosive device that was concealed in his underwear. That bomb, along with the cargo bombs intercepted by authorities last week, were identical in the chemical composition and possessed the same type of detonation device.

Ibrahim al-Asiri is a member of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). which was formed in January 2009 through the merger of two Muslim terrorist groups in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. The terrorist organization is populated by terrorists returning from Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as a number of terrorists who have been released from Guantanamo Bay.

Related:

Bulk cell phone purchases & the Nexus to terrorism

9 August 2006: For the last 18 months, investigators from the Northeast Intelligence Network have been actively informing the public, store-owners, managers and law enforcement about the nexus between the bulk purchases of pre-paid cellular telephones and international terrorism. READ

15 August 2006: Two separate terrorism-related cases involving men of Islamic males of Middle Eastern descent and bulk purchases of cell phones were ripped to shreds by the PC-ruled FBI on Monday, causing the leaders from Arab-American organizations to proclaim that the arrested men were ”victims of racial profiling.” READ

24 August 2006: The recent series of arrests of Middle Eastern men involved in the purchase of prepaid cellular telephones is the apparent subject of debate. There are those who are insulting the sensibilities of the American public by desperately trying to explain the issue as nothing more than young men who are embracing the entrepreneurial American spirit – the very spirit that made this country great – by purchasing large quantities of cell phones and reselling them for a profit. READ