US-bound parcel bomb was 'powerful, bore Qaeda hallmarks'

30th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

A US-bound air parcel intercepted in Dubai bore Al-Qaeda hallmarks including a powerful explosive and mobile phone detonator concealed in a computer printer, police in the Gulf emirate said on Saturday.

A Dubai police statement said the bomb was a complex and professional device made of PETN and lead -- a highly explosive combination that can cause great damage.

Suspect packages were discovered Friday on cargo planes in transit for the United States -- one in Dubai and the other in Britain's East Midlands airport -- and destined for Chicago synagogues.

US President Barack Obama said the packages came from Yemen, contained explosives and represented a "credible terrorist threat."

"The investigation into the suspicious packages that came from Yemen through the US delivery company FedEx has shown that (one contained) a computer printer whose ink contained explosive material," Dubai's police force said.

"The device was prepared in a professional manner and equipped with an electrical circuit linked to a mobile telephone (SIM) card concealed in the printer.

"The manner in which this device was prepared bears the hallmarks of those used by terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda," the statement added.

Dubai police -- quoting experts -- said the bomb found in the printer was PETN combined with lead to form a highly explosive device.

PETN, or Pentaerythritol tetranitrate, PETN, is the same substance used by would-be 2009 Christmas day bomber Farouk Abdulmutallab and 2001 attempted shoe-bomber Richard Reid.

It is a colourless potent explosive that can be set off either with a detonator or extreme heat. A small amount can cause great damage.

Police said the bomb had been disarmed.

"Thanks to rapid intervention the police in Dubai foiled a terrorist operation in the country where the package was destined," the statement said.

The Dubai police said it was alerted on the presence of suspicious parcels from Yemen by the international exchange which links security services around the world.

FedEx has an office in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, which collects parcels destined to be sent abroad, a Yemeni air transport official said.

But the US delivery company -- which has a facility in Dubai -- does not have any direct cargo flights from Yemen.

FedEx and the other top US package delivery firm UPS announced Friday they were shutting suspect routes after the discovery of the suspicious parcels.

"The shipment originated in Yemen and as an additional safety measure, FedEx has embargoed all shipments originating from Yemen."

UPS made a similar move after two of its aircraft were grounded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and one in Newark, New Jersey on suspicion they may be carrying explosives.

"Because security is of the utmost importance, UPS is immediately suspending service out of Yemen until further notice," the firm said.

Yemen -- the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden and headquarters of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) -- said on Saturday it opened an investigation and would not let up its fight against global terrorism.

© 2010 AFP

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