October 2, 2011 in Nation/World

Bomb maker possibly killed in Yemen strike

Officials unsure of ‘lethal’ Saudi’s fate
Brian Bennett Tribune Washington bureau

(Full-size photo)

WASHINGTON – In the wake of the U.S. drone strike in Yemen that killed two key American members of al-Qaida, U.S. intelligence officials were attempting to confirm reports that an inventive Saudi bomb maker for the terrorist organization also was among the dead.

News reports said one of at least two other men killed in the CIA-led operation Friday was Ibrahim Hassan Asiri, a fugitive whose signature bomb-making style has linked him to multiple attacks that were directed by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. The American strike on a convoy in northern Yemen killed U.S.-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki as well as Samir Khan, an American citizen who published an online magazine that gave instructions on how to launch attacks inside the United States.

American intelligence officials said they were investigating reports of Asiri’s death but had not confirmed that he had been killed.

Asiri is known for hiding bombs in imaginative ways to evade security procedures, such as by using the explosive powder pentaerythritol tetranitrate, or PETN. FBI bomb analysts believe that Asiri designed and built bombs that were hidden in printer cartridges in October 2010 and shipped as cargo intended for U.S. targets, including a Jewish center in Chicago.

Asiri’s fingerprint was found on the bomb hidden in the underwear of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian man who successfully smuggled a device through airport security in Amsterdam on Christmas Day 2009 and boarded a flight bound for Detroit. Abdulmutallab was restrained by passengers and the airline crew after the bomb failed to detonate properly.

Asiri also concealed a bomb on his brother’s body in 2009 in a failed attempt to assassinate the head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency.

Asiri “was one of the linchpins driving the success” of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, said Rick Nelson, a counterterrorism expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “You can see how creative he’s been. That makes him very, very lethal.”

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