Passengers were target of al Qaeda ink jet bombs
Both bombs found last week had been transported in the hold of passenger flights, suggesting that the terrorists were targeting tourists and other travellers, rather than simply trying to bring down cargo planes, as had previously been thought.The bombers could not be sure what aircraft would carry the device or what route it would take, because cargo is often switched at the last moment. They probably did not care as long as they could commit mass murder for Allah.
A device found at East Midlands airport on Friday had left Yemen on a passenger aircraft, The Daily Telegraph has learnt, before it was switched to a UPS cargo plane. The second device, found in Dubai, was carried on two Qatar Airways passenger flights before it was intercepted.
Sources close to the investigation in Yemen said because there were no scheduled cargo flights out of the country it was likely the terrorists knew the bombs would be loaded on to passenger planes for at least part of their journey.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, also admitted yesterday it was possible that the US-bound bomb found at East Midlands could have detonated over Britain if it had not been found, because of the unpredictability of freight routes.
In further developments:
* A woman was being hunted in Yemen after posting the bombs, using an identity stolen from a student.
* Investigators in Yemen said they were examining 26 other suspect packages.
* British police faced criticism from the US over their failure to find the East Midlands device during their initial search.
The two bombs, concealed inside computer printers, were virtually impossible to detect by X-ray screening because they contained an odourless explosive and used timers that would have looked like part of the printers’ electronics.
They were designed to explode in mid-air and would have been as capable of bringing down an aircraft as the device that blew up PanAm Flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988, killing 270 people.
More than half of all freight to the US is carried on passenger flights and Lord Carlisle of Berriew, the former government adviser on terrorism, said there was every chance a parcel bomb could end up on a passenger plane.
“If you put a parcel into UPS, you have no way of knowing what flight it is going to go on,” he said. “It could end up on a passenger flight.”