The recent seizure by U.S. and other intelligence agents of an explosive device designed to be secretly carried aboard an airliner by a suicide bomber has put one of al Qaeda's master bomb-makers back into an international spotlight.
U.S. officials havenâ€™t said whether they believe Ibrahim al-Asiri â€“ the chief bomb-maker for Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula - built the device, which they say was recovered two weeks ago after a tip from Saudi Arabia.
But U.S. officials sayÂ the groupÂ is responsible, and that the device is an evolution of the bomb that was used in a failed attack on a Christmas Day 2009 flight to Detroit â€“ a bomb that U.S. officials believe al-Asiri built.
Itâ€™s not clear how the most recent bomb differed from the so-called underwear bomber'sÂ apparatus in that 2009 incident. A U.S. official said that like the earlier device, it was â€śnon-metallicâ€ť and therefore harder for airport security scanners to detect. But itâ€™s â€śclear that AQAP is revamping its bomb techniques to try to avoid the cases of the failure of the 2009 device,â€ť the official said.
Regardless of whether al-Asiri made the latest bomb, U.S. intelligence officials believe heâ€™s one of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula'sÂ most dangerous operatives.Â TheyÂ believe the device comes from the group, and that al-Asiri hasÂ been involved in at least three of the group'sÂ international bomb plots:Â a failed 2009 attempt to kill Saudi prince Mohammed bin Nayef; the failed 2009 Christmas airplane bombing; and a foiled 2010 attempt to send printer bombs to the United States aboard cargo planes.