Security officials in the United States have identified Saudi-born extremist Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri in connection with a failed attempt to fly bombs on cargo planes.
Considered one of al-Qaida’s most radical adherents, al-Asiri is also believed to be behind the 2009 Christmas Day plot which saw Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab board a passenger aircraft with a bomb in his body cavity.
Pictured: Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri is being sought in connection with the plot
Qatar Airways has also confirmed that one of the bombs located on Friday had travelled on two passenger flights before being detected in Dubai.
British counter-terrorism officials subsequently warned al-Qaida may have exposed a serious vulnerability in aviation security by constructing sophisticated devices that were extremely difficult to detect.
In response, security around air cargo across the world is being re-examined.
The British prime minister David Cameron is due to chair a meeting of his government’s emergency planning committee Cobra later today.
Of most concern to authorities is that the PETN explosive in both devices was not picked up by initial tests.
Calls for an overhaul in security were echoed by the British International Freight Association (BIFA), although it insisted there were “already well-established, in-depth and organised processes” in place to screen cargo.
In the United States John Brennan, counter-terrorism advisor to the Obama administration, said the latest bombs, disguised in printer cartridges and found at East Midlands airport and Dubai, were “very sophisticated”.
“It’s very similar in terms of the types of materials and the construction to some other devices that we have seen,” he added.
Brennan also explained that he agreed with British officials that the bombs were intended to bring down planes in flight, even though they were addressed to synagogues in Chicago.
Meanwhile, a 22-year-old Yemeni woman who was arrested on suspicion of sending the packages was released last night after the country’s officials admitted they no longer believed she was responsible for the shipment.
Hanan al-Samawi, an engineering student at Sana’a University, had been arrested along with her 45-year-old mother, who was later released.