A parcel bomb on board a US-bound cargo plane from Yemen, which was among the two bombs discovered by airport officials, was barely 17 minutes from going off, France's Interior Minister was quoted as saying in reports on Thursday.
Brice Hortefeux who revealed this in a chat with French television, however, failed to specify which of the two bombs was being referred to.
"There were parcel bombs from Yemen heading for the United States, and I can tell you, for example, that one of these parcels was disarmed 17 minutes before the planned explosion," he said.
But Hortefeux failed to reveal his source.
Reacting to the claims, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the matter is still being looked in to and there was no evidence to back Hortefeux's statements.
Subsequently, it has emerged that the operation which led to the discovery of the parcel bombs followed a tip-off received from Saudi intelligence.
One of the parcels was found on a United Parcel Service (UPS)jet, which had stopped to refuel at East Midlands Airport in the UK while the second package was found on plane during a stop over in Dubai.
The bombs were made using PETN, a hard-to-detect explosive cleverly hidden inside printer cartridges. According to German experts, there was enough PETN within the cartridges to cause a major explosion.
US officials revealed that the bombs were connected to circuit boards from mobile phones but did not contain the SIM card (Subscriber Identity Module). This indicated that the mobiles were to be used to trigger the explosion.
They also said that the packages seized in September may have been part of a dry run planned by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a local affiliate of al-Qaeda.
It was through the merger of al-Qaeda's Yemeni and Saudi branches that the AQAP took shape in January 2009. It followed the massive campaign launched by Saudi forces against al-Qaeda, which led to several of its members seeking refuge in neighboring Yemen.
Meanwhile, Yemeni authorities are still on the look out for Ibrahim al-Asir who reportedly made the bomb.
The incident has led to a virtual clampdown on air cargo from Yemen.
by RTT Staff Writer
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