Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Mail bomb suspect 'had ID stolen'

Home Secretary Theresa May says the cargo plane bombers would not know where the devices would detonate

The young Yemeni woman arrested on suspicion of mailing powerful bombs to US synagogues has been released on bail as Yemeni officials said authorities believed her identity had been stolen.

Authorities arrested 22-year-old Hanan al-Samawi after tracking the name and address used on the packages. But after she was arrested, the shipping agent said she wasn't the one who signed the shipping documents, a Yemeni official said.

The release means investigators no longer have any suspects in custody in a suspected al Qaida plot that authorities believe was intended to take down cargo jetliners.

The Yemeni official said investigators now believe someone stole her identity and used it to mail the bombs. The woman, an engineering student, was released on bail but cannot leave the country pending further questioning.

Earlier a Qatar Airways spokesman said that one of two powerful bombs mailed from Yemen to Chicago-area synagogues travelled on two passenger planes within the Middle East.

The US said the plot bears the hallmarks of al Qaida's offshoot in Yemen and vowed to destroy the group.

The airline spokesman said a package containing explosives hidden in a printer cartridge arrived in Qatar Airways' hub in Doha, Qatar on one of the carrier's flights from the Yemeni capital Sana'a.

It was then shipped on a separate Qatar Airways plane to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where it was discovered by authorities. A second, similar package turned up in at East Midlands airport on Friday.

In Washington, President Barack Obama's deputy national security adviser John Brennan said authorities "have to presume" there might be more potential mail bombs like the ones pulled from planes in the UK and the UAE. US inspectors were heading to Yemen to monitor cargo security practices and pinpoint holes in the system.

Mr Brennan called it "a very sophisticated device, in terms of how it was constructed, how it was concealed" and said it was a viable device. "They were self-contained. They were able to be detonated at a time of the terrorists' choosing," Mr Brennan said, adding that officials are trying to determine whether the planes or the synagogues were the intended targets.

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