Link between explosive packages and 'underwear' bomb: US

John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counter-Terrorism, said indications are right now that it is the same individual who made the "underwear bomb" for the Christmas Day bomber and other similar attempts in the past.

"I think the sophistication of these IEDs shows, at least in my mind, that it was an al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula effort, and that there are a number of people that are involved in this. And so it's not just these two individuals. We're looking for a lot more," he told ABC News in an interview.

One package was found in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The other was discovered at an airport in England.

He said the individual who has been making these bombs, "whether it be the one that was given to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, or was the one that was attempted to assassinate Prince Mohammed bin Nayef of Saudi Arabia, or the ones that were found in these packages, is a very dangerous individual".

"I think the indications are right now based on the forensics analysis that it's an individual who has been responsible for putting these devices together, the same," Brennan said, adding these explosives could have brought down a plane.

He agreed with the Qatar Airways statement that the package laden with explosives that ended up in Dubai actually traveled on two of its passenger planes from Yemen to Doha, and then from Doha to Dubai.

They are saying that this PETN explosive simply evaded their X-ray screening, their sniffer dogs.

He also called for a relook at different airports to see if there is need for any adjustment of procedures or screening methods or technologies. "We need to be able to detect these packages, whether they be on a cargo flight or whether they be on a passenger flight," Brennan said.

Brennan said the timely information provided by Saudis saved lot of lives here in the US.
"They contacted us immediately, and it was a race against the clock to find those packages, to neutralise them. And so we owe a debt of gratitude to the Saudis. I think their actions really saved lives here," he said.

He also underlined the need for examining "carefully" whether they were going to be detonated on the aircraft or they were intended for the destination.

"The British believe that these IEDs were going to be detonated while they were on board the aircraft, wherever that might have been," he said.

"But what we have to do is to look very carefully at whether or not they were going to be detonated on the aircraft or they were intended for the destination, and that's where they were going to be detonated," he said in response to a question.

Meanwhile, a woman believed to be connected to the plot to send explosive packages bound for the United States has been arrested in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.

A female relative of the woman was also being questioned by Yemeni authorities, the CNN quoted an unnamed US government official as saying. The relationship between the two women was not immediately known.

Authorities are looking at a specific material found in the devices and used in the foiled "underwear bomb" attempt on Christmas Day in 2009.

A source close to the investigation said the type of material found in the devices was PETN, a highly explosive organic compound belonging to the same chemical family as nitroglycerin. Six grams of PETN are enough to blow a hole in the fuselage of an aircraft.

PETN was allegedly one of the components of the bomb concealed by Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the Nigerian man accused of trying to set off a bomb hidden in his underwear aboard a Northwest Airlines flight as it approached Detroit, Michigan, on December 25 last year.

AbdulMutallab is alleged to have been carrying 80 grams of PETN in that botched attack.
"The quantity of PETN in these (new) devices was about five times the volume used at Christmas" by AbdulMutallab, Col Richard Kemp, the former chairman of the British government's Cobra Intelligence Group, said.

The plot "does appear to be a typical al Qaeda-type operation," he said. A source closely involved in the investigation said the detonating substance was Lead Azide, a "very powerful initiator" which is easily prepared and is a standard substance in detonations.
Believing that a Yemen affiliate of al-Qaeda was involved, American and British authorities said explosive devices jammed into ink toner cartridges were powerful enough to bring down a large aircraft.

British authorities said they believe East Midlands Airport in central England was simply a conduit for shipment of one device to the United States.

As they studied the devices and toiled to understand the extent of the plot, authorities pointed their fingers at al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The group is based in Yemen, a poor Arab nation that has emerged as a major operating base for al-Qaeda and other terror groups.

They were "professionally" loaded and connected using an electric circuit to a mobile phone chip tucked in a printer, Dubai police said. The devices were packed in toner cartridges and designed to be detonated by a cell phone.

The package found at East Midlands Airport contained a "manipulated" toner cartridge and had white powder on it as well as wires and a circuit board. A similar package set to be shipped on a FedEx cargo plane was discovered in Dubai, officials there said.

When the Saudis warned British law enforcement that there were explosives inside the cartridge at East Midlands, the British -- using human and canines -- could not detect the material, according to a US law enforcement official familiar with investigation.

The British authorities contacted the Saudis to verify the tip, the official said. The Saudis told them to inspect the cartridge again, and that is when the British authorities discovered the material, the official said.

In response to the threat, authorities stepped up searches on Friday of cargo planes and trucks in several US cities, said law enforcement sources with detailed knowledge of the investigation.

Also on Friday, the Transportation Security Administration stopped all packages originating from Yemen.

Britain has said that all cargo into or through the United Kingdom originating in Yemen have been halted. The US Postal Service also announced a temporary suspension of acceptance of inbound international mail originating in Yemen.


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