The two package bombs intercepted by authorities in Britain and Dubai last week appear to have been built to detonate “in flight” and to bring down the planes carrying them, President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser said.
“At this point we, I think, would agree with the British that it looks as though they were designed to be detonated in flight,” said the adviser, John Brennan, speaking Sunday on the CBS program Face the Nation.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Saturday that “we believe the device was designed to go off on the aeroplane.”
The assessment, combined with the revelation that one of the packages traveled on passenger flights in the Middle East, underlined just how narrowly authorities had averted a potential catastrophe. It also raised puzzling questions about why the packages, which contained bombs skillfully packed inside modified printer cartridges, were addressed to two synagogues in Chicago, a potential warning flag given that the packages originated in Yemen.
A US counterterrorism official said that preliminary conclusion that the devices were designed to detonate aboard aircraft, and not at the addresses in the Chicago area, is based in part on the fact that the parcels were not rigged to explode upon opening.
With early evidence suggesting that the plot was directed by al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen, Brennan said US officials cannot presume that there are no more package bombs circulating even though some US law enforcement officials think they have identified and cleared all packages that left Yemen at the same time as the two devices already intercepted.
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