Airmail bomb was 'just minutes from exploding'

One of the mail bombs sent from Yemen was defused just 17 minutes before it was due to explode, the interior minister of France said yesterday, as he warned of further attempts to carry out terrorist attacks.

Brice Hortefeux did not specify whether the supposed "near miss" took place in England or Dubai, where the two explosive packages were found. There had been criticism over the delay in finding the bomb at East Midlands airport, where the police failed to find it in their first sweep and had to be told to look again, at the insistence of the security services.

Authorities in the UK, however, said yesterday that forensic tests were still being carried out on the device and that it was not yet clear when it had been due to detonate. There was a similar response in the United Arab Emirates, where US analysts are carrying out similar tests.

French officials insisted that Mr Hortefeux's statement was based on reliable intelligence briefings, but refused to give out any further details. The projected timescale suggested that "al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula", the group said to be behind the plot, expected the bomb to go off on a plane, rather than at the Jewish target in Chicago to which it was dispatched, but would not have necessarily known exactly where this would take place.

The two bombs were wired to mobile phones and hidden in the toner cartridges of computer printers. The communication cards had been removed and the phones could not receive calls, officials said, making it likely that the terrorists intended the alarm or timer functions to detonate the bombs.

Intelligence officials in the US said that each bomb was attached to a syringe containing lead azide, a chemical initiator that would have detonated PETN explosives packed into each printer cartridge.

Both PETN and a syringe were used in the failed bombing last Christmas of a Detroit-bound airliner by the so-called "underpants bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Yemeni authorities say they have intensified the hunt for the suspected bomb-maker, 28-year-old Saudi Ibrahim al-Asiri, but Western security sources admitted that no strong lead has emerged over his whereabouts.

Mr Hortefeux spoke about the time of detonation after French police arrested two men suspected of planning a terrorist attack. A number of people have been detained based on information received from the Saudi Government t which, it is claimed, has placed agents inside al-Qa'ida in Yemen.

"I can tell you, for example, that one of these packages was defused just 17 minutes before the planned explosion time," Mr Hortefeux said.

"Yemen is an extremely sensitive country, clearly. We know that in this part of the world there's a strong surge of al Qa'ida, of Islamic militancy. There is an Islamic militant threat, which is strong and is real."

Seven people, including five French citizens, were kidnapped by the North African wing of al-Qa'ida in September. Osama bin Laden said in a message broadcast on Al Jazeera television on 27 October that the kidnappings in Niger had been prompted by France's "unjust treatment of Muslims," including the introduction of laws banning the wearing of burqas in public.

Suggested Topics
News
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
Voices
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits