Saturday, October 30, 2010

Explosives may be PETN

This video still from CNN allegedly shows the bomb disguised as an ink toner cartridge found in a package about a UPS cargo plane. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - THE same explosive used by shoe-bomber Richard Reid and the failed Christmas Day underwear bomber may have been in the suspect packages destined to the United States from Yemen, US media said on Friday.

The discovery of the suspicious packages overnight on cargo planes in transit for the United States - one in Dubai and the other in Britain - sparked an international security alert and what President Barack Obama called a 'credible terrorist threat'.

'One source gave an initial estimate that 10 to 14 ounces of homemade high explosive were contained in the devices,' ABC News said. One of those packages, intercepted in Britain, contained what looked like a toner cartridge for a printer and suspicious powder that officials believe 'may be the explosive PETN, used in the failed plots of the so-called shoe bomber and underwear bomber,' said ABC news.

PETN is a potent explosive that can be set off either with a detonator or extreme heat. It was part of the device set off in the botched Christmas Day 2009 bombing of a Northwest airliner flying to Detroit by Nigerian Farouk Abdulmutallab who hid the contraption in his underwear. PETN was also the explosive used in a failed 2001 attempt by Briton Richard Reid to set off a bomb hidden in his shoe while flying from Paris to Miami.

It is a major ingredient of the plastic explosive Semtex and TNT and is used in a wide range of military weapons. According to CNN, which cited an unnamed US official, 'it is likely that the material used was PETN - a highly explosive organic compound belonging to the same chemical family as nitroglycerin - but said testing is ongoing to reach a definitive conclusion.'

CNN said the second package, found in Dubai, 'was described as an explosive device with 'sophisticated' wiring believed to be a printer'. ABC News cited US officials as saying that package 'contained cell phones and what might be 'detonators and timers'. -- AFP

No comments: