The device used in October's cargo bomb plot was so sophisticated that police nearly put it on a van before they realized it was a live explosive, according to a recent revelation by Britain's The Telegraph. The bomb disposal officers unwittingly disarmed the device by disassembling it before they were aware it was anything more than a standard printer ink cartridge.
The device, composed of a powerful type of plastic explosive called PETN coupled with a disassembled cell phone, was hidden in a desktop printer sent from Yemen. Intelligence officials speculate that the device was built by Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, a top bomb maker for Yemen's al-Qaida for Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
"This was the most sophisticated device we have seen for a decade," a British police source told the Telegraph. "It demonstrates that AQAP has now emerged as a major terrorist threat to the UK. We had a very lucky escape at East Midlands but next time we might not be so lucky."
Al-Qaida announced the attack in a special issue of the English-language Jihadi magazine. "$4,200," the name of the issue, was a boast about the new and cheap method of attack with which al-Qaida was experimenting. The issue also gave theological justification for the attack and declared that al-Qaida was training a new generation of bomb makers using al-Asiri's methods.
The revelations about the October 29th attack come at the same time al-Qaida is warning of new attacks over the Christmas season. The sophistication of these attacks and AQAP's growing role have also led America's leading counterterrorism official, John Brennan, to declare AQAP a greater threat than the older Pakistani al-Qaida branch.