Al-Qaeda bombs too sophisticated to be detected by x-rays, says Brit counter-terrorism expert

November 1st, 2010 - 2:07 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Nov 1 (ANI): A senior British counter-terrorism official has said that the al-Qaida bomb inside a computer printer discovered at East Midlands airport on Friday, was too sophisticated to be detected by the x-rays.

“One of the most sophisticated we’ve seen … the naked eye won’t pick it up, experienced bomb officers did not see it, x-ray screening is highly unlikely to catch it,” the Guardian quoted the official, as saying.

Senior counter-terrorism officials warned that al-Qaida has exposed a blind spot in international aviation security by successfully smuggling bombs onto commercial cargo planes bound for the US.

Saudi Arabian intelligence was warned by an informant leading to the discovery of the devices at the East Midlands and Dubai airports. A special team of officers from MI5, MI6, and GCHQ, which works closely with the Metropolitan police’s counter-terrorism branch, was activated as soon as the Saudi Arabian authorities tipped off US and UK intelligence agencies.

Meanwhile, the British home secretary, Theresa May, has said that the devices could have exploded over the UK or the US as it emerged that the bomb found in the UK was first missed by investigators and was only picked up during a second check.

Expressing concern over the ease with which the explosive material used in the devices, Pentaerythritol tetranitrate, or PETN, can be passed through all kinds of airport security, Qatar Airways said the bomb found in Dubai had travelled on two separate passenger aircraft without being picked up and added that neither the x-ray screening nor sniffer dogs could detect the devices.

“There is no way of picking out PETN. It is a continued vulnerability,” the paper quoted the counter-terrorism official, as saying.

Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of counter-terrorism laws has said that the initial failure to find the bomb on a plane at East Midlands airport was a “weakness”.

“The one weakness I would identify from what we must regard as a success in recent days is that the technical equipment used at East Midlands Airport apparently did not detect the explosives at the first attempt,” Lord Carlile added.

Earlier, the British International Freight Association has said that there should be a review of all aspects of air cargo following the incident at East Midlands airport on Friday. (ANI)

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