US uncovered parcel bomb dry run back in September: official

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The US authorities intercepted parcels from Yemen bound for Chicago in mid-September suspected of being a dry run for the package bomb plot foiled last week, a US official said on Monday.

First reported by ABC News, the shipments believed to be from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula contained household goods including books, religious literature, and a computer disk, but no explosives.

"At the time, people obviously took notice and -- knowing of the terrorist group's interest in aviation -- considered the possibility that AQAP might be exploring the logistics of the cargo system," the US official told AFP.

"We received information several weeks ago that potentially connected these packages to AQAP," the official said. "The boxes were stopped in transit and searched.

"When we learned of last week's serious threat, people recalled the incident and factored it in to our government's very prompt response."

Two parcels addressed to Jewish institutions in Chicago and containing the lethal explosive PETN hidden in ink toner cartridges were uncovered on Thursday on cargo planes en route to the United States in Britain and Dubai.

The packages, which officials believe were intended to blow up the planes and which were tracked down thanks to a tip-off from Saudi intelligence, have prompted Western nations to review security measures surrounding air cargo.

"The dry run is always important to Al-Qaeda," Dick Clarke, a former White House counter-terrorism official, told ABC.

"In this case they wanted to follow the packages using the tracking system to know exactly when they got to a point, how long the timer had to be set for, so the bomb would go off at the right point, which presumably was over Chicago."

ABC said it had been told by senior US officials that ever since the September shipment was discovered, intelligence agencies had specific concerns about the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's interest in Chicago.

© 2010 AFP

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