Ahmed Al-Haj and Adam Schreck
SAN'A, Yemen — One of two powerful bombs mailed from Yemen to Chicago-area synagogues traveled on passenger flights within the Middle East, a Qatar Airways spokesman said Sunday. The U.S. said the plot bears the hallmarks of al-Qaida's offshoot in Yemen and has vowed to destroy the group.
The airline spokesman said a package containing explosives hidden in a printer cartridge arrived in Qatar Airways' hub in the capital Doha on a flights from Yemen – an Airbus A320 which can carry up to 144 passengers.
It was then shipped on a separate Qatar Airways plane to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where it was discovered by authorities late Thursday or early Friday. A second, similar package turned up in England on Friday.
The airline spokesman disclosed the information on condition of anonymity in line with the company's standing policies on conversations with the media.
The plot was the latest to expose persistent security gaps in international air travel and cargo shipping nearly a decade after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and showed extremists appear to be probing those vulnerabilities.
"The security gap is now for things leaving Yemen," said Riad Kahwaji, head of the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. "On the Yemeni side, they'll have a lot to answer for to regain their credibility."
Yemeni authorities have taken several people into custody for questioning, including a young student whose telephone number was used to register the packages. She has since been conditionally released into her father's custody.
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 England and the United Arab Emirates.
U.S. inspectors were heading to Yemen to monitor cargo security practices and pinpoint holes in the system. An internal report, obtained by The Associated Press, said the team of six inspectors from the Transportation Security Administration will give Yemeni officials recommendations and training to improve cargo security.