US-bound bomb typical of Qaeda
Dubai - A US-bound parcel bomb intercepted in Dubai was laced with the powerful PETN explosive and bore the hallmarks of the al-Qaeda terror network, police in the Gulf emirate said on Saturday.
The bomb was described by Dubai police as a complex and professional device made of PETN and lead azide, a highly explosive combination that can cause great damage.
It came in a cardboard box from Yemen which also contained English-language books and souvenirs.
The suspect parcel was one of two discovered on Friday in transit to the United States, the other being intercepted at Britain's East Midlands airport. Both were addressed to Chicago synagogues.
US President Barack Obama said the packages represented a "credible terrorist threat".
"The investigation into the suspicious packages that came from Yemen through the US delivery company FedEx has shown that (one contained) a computer printer whose ink contained explosive material," Dubai police said.
"The device was prepared in a professional manner and equipped with an electrical circuit linked to a mobile telephone (SIM) card concealed in the printer.
"The manner in which this device was prepared bears the hallmarks of those used by terrorist organisations like al-Qaeda," the statement added.
PETN, or Pentaerythritol tetranitrate, PETN, is the same substance used by would-be 2009 Christmas Day bomber Farouk Abdulmutallab and 2001 attempted shoe-bomber Richard Reid.
It is a colourless potent explosive that can be set off either with a detonator or extreme heat. While the chemical is also used to treat heart conditions, PETN is best known as a military grade explosive.
Police said the bomb had been disarmed.
"Thanks to rapid intervention, the police in Dubai foiled a terrorist operation in the country where the package was destined," the statement said.
Ten pictures of the device were published by the WAM news agency, including one that shows the parcel also containing a copy of the George Eliot novel "The Mill on the Floss," as well as a management book and handicrafts believed to be from Yemen.
Most of the snaps show the printer from different angles, stuffed with white PETN powder or highlighting the closed circuit electrical set-up.
The Dubai police force said it was alerted on the presence of suspicious parcels from Yemen by the international exchange which links security services around the world.
FedEx has an office in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, which collects parcels destined to be sent abroad, a Yemeni air transport official said.
But the US delivery company - which has a facility in Dubai - does not have any direct cargo flights from Yemen.
FedEx and the other top US package delivery firm UPS announced on Friday they were shutting suspect routes after the discovery of the suspicious parcels.
Yemen - the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden and headquarters of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) - said on Saturday it opened an investigation and would not let up its fight against global terrorism.
The White House said it was tipped off by Saudi Arabia to the threat and was "grateful... for their assistance in developing information that helped underscore the imminence of the threat emanating from Yemen".
Obama immediately ordered cargo planes at Philadelphia and Newark international airports to be towed to isolated areas and checked because they were thought to contain further packages from Yemen.
US and Canadian fighter jets were scrambled to accompany an Emirates plane into New York but Emirati authorities later said it was not carrying cargo from Yemen.