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Mail bomb defused with minutes to go

One of two mail bombs sent from Yemen last week was defused just 17 minutes before it was set to explode, the French interior minister has said.

Brice Hortefeux provided no other details in an interview on France's state-run France-2 television, or say where he got the information from.

When investigators pulled the Chicago-bound packages off cargo planes at East Midlands Airport and at Dubai on Friday, they found the 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 the terrorists intended to use the alarm or timer functions to detonate the bombs.

Investigations have centred on the Yemeni al Qaida faction's top bomb-maker, who had previously designed the bomb that failed to go off on a crowded US-bound passenger jetliner last Christmas.

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