Man who almost bombed America thrice
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Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri has built a reputation as al-Qaeda's bomb-making savant one potential near miss at time: Explosive-rigged underwear aboard a Christmas flight to the US in 2009, printers fitted with high-grade explosives the next year and now, possibly a metal-free device that could avoid airport detectors.
Before those failed attempts, he turned his own brother into a suicide bomber in 2009 that injured Saudi Arabia's top counterterrorism official, and was later decried by the US for its "brutality, novelty and sophistication".
This appears to be the essence of al-Asiri's plots as one of the leaders of the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The latest device, believed to be the work of the Saudi-born al-Asiri or one of his students, was described as a refinement of the underwear bomb that failed to detonate aboard a jetliner over Detroit on December 25, 2009. The twist this time was an absence of metal, which could have made the device undetectable by conventional airport scanners.
Al-Asiri, 30, arrived in Yemen in 2006 after being jailed by Saudi officials in crackdowns against militants. "They put me in prison and I began to see the depths of (the Saudi) servitude to the Crusaders," he is quoted as saying in the September 2009 issue of AQAP's Arabic-language online magazine Sada al-Malahem, or Voice of Battles.
In Yemen, al-Asiri met with a former aide to Osama bin Laden, Nasser al-Wahishi, and along with his younger brother Abdullah became the nucleus of AQAP. They later brought in US-born Anwar al-Awlaki as a propaganda voice.
In August 2009, al-Asiri's brother Abdullah posed as a militant wishing to surrender to high-ranking officials in Saudi Arabia. A Saudi royal jet was despatched. Once inside the Saudi intelligence offices in Jeddah, Abdullah detonated an explosive device, reported hidden in his rectum or held between his legs. The target, Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef was slightly injured by the bomb that used PETN, the industrial explosive used in 2001 by shoebomber Richard Reid.
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