Bomb aboard cargo plane 'designed to explode mid-air'
Published 31/10/2010 | 05:00
THE bomb intercepted at East Midlands Airport on its way to America was designed to explode in mid-air and may have been targeted at Britain, it emerged last night.
UK prime minister David Cameron said he believed the device was constructed to detonate in flight, and added that a plot to blow it up over Britain could not be ruled out.
Mr Cameron's dramatic intervention came as the investigation into the plot was centring on one of al-Qaeda's most senior commanders.
US and British security officials believe Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born figurehead of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP) was behind the foiled attack in which two ink cartridge bombs, posted in Yemen, were intercepted in Britain and Dubai on the way to America.
Al-Awlaki, who is in hiding in Yemen, is regarded by the CIA and MI6 as the driving force behind the transformation of AQAP from a regional group into an international terrorist organisation.
Last night, at least one woman was arrested in Yemen on suspicion of posting the packages. Yemen's president said information that identified the woman had been provided by the US and the United Arab Emirates.
Fears of more plots emerged last night after investigators in Sana'a, the Yemeni capital, revealed they were examining 24 other suspect packages. Authorities were also questioning workers at the airport and employees of shipping companies contracted to work with the freight companies FedEx and UPS.
While the devices were addressed to synagogues in Chicago, Theresa May, the UK home secretary, was the first to announce yesterday that the target for the bombs could have been the planes.
She also stated that Britain had launched a review of the UK's air cargo security and stated that all unaccompanied freight from Yemen had been stopped. Further suspicion fell on the involvement of AQAP when Janet Napolitano, the US homeland security secretary, stated that the plot had all the hallmarks of an al-Qaeda "spectacular". It was well orchestrated, it targeted airlines and it was designed to cause global panic and chaos.
Speaking after a meeting of Cobra, the UK's emergency planning committee, Mrs May said: "I can confirm that the device was viable and could have exploded. The target may have been an aircraft and had it detonated the aircraft could have been brought down.
"But we do not believe that the perpetrators of the attack would have known the location of the device when they planned for it to explode."
Mobile phones can be used as the trigger to detonate a bomb, by either using the handset's internal clock as a timer or setting it to detonate when the phone receives a call or a text message.
The international terror alert was launched late last Thursday when MI6 received information from the Saudi Arabian intelligence services.
Following the tip-off, security staff discovered suspicious packages on planes at cargo hubs at East Midlands Airport and Dubai.
The packages were addressed to synagogues in Chicago, and were on Chicago-bound cargo flights.
The terror alert followed calls this week from airline bosses for existing security procedures such as shoe and laptop checks to be scrapped.