WASHINGTON -- U.S. counterterrorism officials warned local law enforcement and emergency personnel to be on the watch for mail with unusual characteristics that could mean dangerous substances are hidden inside.
The FBI and Homeland Security Department cautioned that
foreign-origin packages without return addresses and excessive
postage require a second look, according to an advisory sent to
local officials around the country that was obtained Monday by The
Major cargo firms have already suspended shipments from Yemen
and on Monday, Germany's aviation authority said the country has
extended its ban on cargo aircraft from Yemen to include passenger
flights amid the current terrorist threat.
Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence officials believe the suspected bombmaker is a
28-year-old Saudi named Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, thought to be in
Al-Asiri has been previously tied to a failed bombing
attempt last Christmas Day on a Detroit-bound plane and an earlier
failed attempt to kill a Saudi counterterrorism official.
Both attempts used PETN and a detonator hidden in militants' underwear.
An official United Arab Emirates security source said
authorities are tracing the serial numbers of a mobile phone
circuit board and computer printer used in a mail bomb sent from
Yemen and found in Dubai last week.
Authorities believe Yemeni-based terrorists sent two mail bombs
addressed to Jewish synagogues in Chicago last week, but the
devices may have been aimed at blowing up planes in flight.
While officials caught two bombs in the United Arab Emirates and the
United Kingdom, U.S. officials warn there may be more in the
The UAE security official told The Associated Press Monday the
emirates are sharing the bomb part serial numbers with the United
States, Yemen and other countries involved in the probe in an
effort to track the bombs' origins.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the
investigation is ongoing.
One of the bombs that was mailed from Yemen and found by
authorities was routed to London through the UPS hub in Cologne.
German aviation agency spokeswoman Cornelia Cramer said that
passenger flights from Yemen were being suspended until further
notice. Germany stopped package deliveries from Yemen over the
The mail bomb plot was narrowly averted, officials said. One
device almost slipped through Britain and the other seized in Dubai
was unwittingly flown on two passenger jets.
Investigators were still piecing together the potency and
construction of two bombs they believed were designed by the top
explosives expert working for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula,
the Yemen-based faction thought to be behind the plot.
Authorities in the UAE discovered the powerful explosive PETN in
a shipment that arrived at Dubai airport on a Qatar Airways
passenger flight last week.
The same explosive is the hallmark of a
series of recent terror attempts by al-Qaida in the Arab Peninsula,
the militant faction suspected in the mail bomb plot.
The UAE security source said Monday that a green mobile phone
circuit board, but no SIM card, was connected to the HP printer
head, which in turn was linked to the explosives.
source said investigators are examining the circuit board to
determine whether it had been used before in the hope it might
provide clues to who sent the bomb.
Yemeni authorities hunted suspects linked to AQAP, but released
a female computer engineering student arrested Saturday, saying
someone else had posed as her in signing the shipping documents.
A Yemeni security official said that security authorities are
still hunting for a young woman who is believed to have dropped off
the mail bombs at a shipping point in the capital, San'a.
An anti-terrorism official told The Associated Press that the young
woman acted as a "middleman" with the group.
Authorities acknowledged how close the terrorists came to
getting their bombs through, and a senior U.S. official said
investigators were still trying to figure out if other devices
remained at large.
Deputy national security adviser John Brennan, appearing on a
round of television news shows Sunday, said that "it would be very
imprudent ... to presume that there are no others (packages) out
Authorities are also "looking at the potential that they would
have been detonated en route to those synagogues aboard the
aircraft as well as at the destinations," Brennan said.
Brennan headed a meeting of national security and intelligence
officials at the White House to determine the U.S. response in
concert with a Yemeni government that has been reluctant to give
the Americans free rein.
About 50 elite U.S. military experts are in Yemen training its
counterterrorism forces and Washington is giving $150 million in
military assistance this year for helicopters, planes and other
A Yemeni official said Sunday his government is aiming for a
"surgical" response with the help of the U.S. against the
plotters. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of
the sensitivity of the talks.
U.S. Issues Mail Advisory, Hunts For Bombmaker Ibrahim al-Asiri
Local Law Enforcement Urged to Watch For Mail With Unusual Characteristics
Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri (AP)