Al-Qaeda bomb in Britain 17 minutes from blast: France
An Al-Qaeda bomb intercepted in Britain last week part way between Yemen and the United States was disarmed just 17 minutes before it was programmed to detonate, French officials said Thursday.
Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said that one of two parcel bombs found last Thursday at airports in Dubai and Britain was close to exploding, and officials in his office told AFP he was referring to the British package.
"There were parcel bombs from Yemen heading for the United States, and I can tell you, for example, that one of these parcels was disarmed 17 minutes before the planned explosion," Hortefeux told France 2 television.
He made the remark during a more general discussion of the threat of militant attacks on France and was not pressed for more information. He did not say what was the source of his information about the imminent blast.
The British interior ministry and London's Metropolitan Police said they would not comment on operational matters.
Packages addressed to synagogues in Chicago and holding the hard-to-detect explosive PETN hidden in ink toner cartridges were uncovered in Dubai and Britain's East Midlands Airport last week, sparking a global security alert.
Washington believes the parcel bombs were the work of Saudi militant Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, a suspected Al-Qaeda bombmaker, and British officials have said they were powerful enough to bring down a plane in flight.
The British government has announced an urgent review of air freight security in the wake of the plot. It has also ordered the suspension of all air freight from Yemen and unaccompanied air freight from Somalia.
Britain's interior minister Theresa May said in a speech on Wednesday that the bomb was "deeply concealed" in a printer cartridge and connected to a hidden power source in sections of a mobile telephone.
"The specifics of this attack -- notably the type of device and how it was concealed -- were new to us," but the principle was similar to the device that destroyed a Pan Am jumbo flight over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, she said.
"It could have destroyed the aircraft on which it was being carried, over the UK, over the US or on the ground," she said.
© 2010 AFP