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Terrorism & Security

Yemen arrests bomb plot suspect, but clues lead to AQAP bombmaker

Yemen officials arrested a suspect Saturday in the alleged plot to mail bombs to two synagogues in Chicago, but clues also lead to a bombmaker for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), reports say.

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One of the clues is the explosive substance used in the bombs, which hid the explosive in printer cartridges.

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US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Saturday they appeared to use pentaerythritol trinitrate, or PETN. That was the material used in both the “underwear bomber” and the suicide attack on the Saudi official.

Sophisticated explosives work

The New York Times reports that an investigator said the wiring of the devices appeared to have been done by professionals, with the devices designed so that the printers would appear normal if the packages were scanned. The Times reports that the devices were “expertly constructed and unusually sophisticated,” pointing to the Yemeni Al Qaeda group’s growing abilities.

CNN reports that the devices discovered Friday were “four times as powerful” as the Christmas Day bomb last year. A US official told CNN that officials suspect the same bombmaker made both devices because of “the way it’s put together.”

It is not clear whether the devices were intended to target the synagogues in Chicago to which they were addressed, or were intended to bring down the airplanes transporting the packages. The Daily Telegraph reports that British Prime Minister David Cameron said the device discovered at East Midlands Airport near London was designed to detonate while aboard the airplane. The British homeland secretary said that such an explosion could have brought down a plane.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that the plot may be part of a new focus by Al Qaeda on smaller-scale attacks on the US and the West. The group may be moving away from larger-scale attacks like the Sept. 11, 2001 attack in favor of more focused actions that can still cause substantial harm.

STORY: Yemen packages: Is Al Qaeda focusing on small-scale attacks?

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