Monday, November 1, 2010

Saudi is bomb suspect

This undated photo released by Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Interior is said by them to show Ibrahim al-Asiri, who, according to US officials, is the suspected bombmaker and the prime suspect in the latest Yemen mail bomb plot. -- PHOTO: AP

WASHINGTON - IBRAHIM Hassan Taleh Al-Asiri, accused of constructing the Yemen parcel bombs, is a Saudi militant wanted for a string of high-profile Al-Qaeda attacks including the botched 2009 'underwear' bombing.

Considered the chief bombmaker for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the 28-year-old son of a retired soldier is thought to be in regular contact with radical Yemeni-US cleric and key terror suspect Anwar al-Awlaki.

Asiri is in the spotlight after two bombs containing his trademark explosive PETN, or pentaerythritol trinitrate, were discovered in parcels - on cargo planes in Dubai and Britain - addressed to Jewish institutions in Chicago.

In August 2009, he ruthlessly dispatched his 23-year-old younger brother Abdullah on a suicide mission with 100 grams of PETN either in his body or hidden underneath his white Saudi robe.

Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the Saudi intelligence chief, who was the victim of an elaborate hoaxed surrender and even flew Abdullah to his palace on his private jet, survived his injuries but the huge blast tore the bomber in two. Al-Qaeda relased a subsequent video of the brothers in which an AQAP commander said Asiri had also wanted to martyr himself but had to be kept behind to oversee the mission.

Four months later, on Christmas Day, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab failed to ignite a PETN device secreted in his underwear on a packed passenger jet as it prepared to land in Detroit - again the finger of suspicion fell on Asiri. The parcel bombs, uncovered late on Thursday, differ from his earlier modus operandi only in that they apparently intended to use circuit boards and cellphone parts rather than a chemical reaction to detonate the PETN. -- AFP

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