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Terrorism & Security

Cargo plane bomb would have detonated over Canada, not the US, say new reports

According to new reports, the UPS flight carrying one of the intercepted cargo plane bombs from Yemen last month would have been on a route that placed it over Canada when the detonation was set to occur.

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The Associated Press reports that new British statements on their initial handling of the bomb suggests that authorities may have unintentionally disarmed the bomb when they first encountered it. In their statement, the British Scotland Yard says they disrupted the explosive when they first handled the package and examined it.

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But on that day, the AP notes, British authorities had originally announced that they had found no explosives and had lifted a security cordon from the cargo depot where the bomb had come from. (They reestablished the security cordon hours later when news emerged of the discovery of a similar bomb in Dubai.) But in the new Wednesday statement, British officials announced that they disrupted the bomb early in the morning, before they had announced that they had not found any explosives.

Officials have said they do not doubt that the bombs had enough explosive material to bring the planes down, the Post adds. The explosives had been crammed into printer cartridges and then disguised as normal packages. American authorities have long been aware of the explosive the would-be bombers used – pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) – and as far back as 1988 Congress named it as a material that should be detected, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

But while American scanners are designed to catch the substance on luggage X-rays, cargo flights from abroad are at risk, the Monitor added. Some countries suspended air cargo shipments from Yemen immediately following the emergence of the bomb attempts.

The intercepted bombs were sophisticated: “They appear to be put together by someone who knows how to construct powerful bombs,” Lawrence Kobilinsky, a professor of forensic science at John Jay College in New York, told the Monitor.

--- The original version of this roundup misstated the findings of British investigators.

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