One of the al-Qaeda plane bombs from the Yemen discovered by security services was disarmed just 17 minutes before it was set to go off, it has been claimed.
Scotland Yard explosives officers found a device hidden in a printer cartridge at East Midlands Airport around 2pm last Friday and another device was found in Dubai.
Scotland Yard explosives officers found a device hidden in a printer cartridge at East Midlands Airport around 2pm on Friday shortly after a similar device was found in Dubai.
The race against time to disarm the bombs was revealed by Brice Hortefeux, the French interior minister, who told French TV: “One of the packages was defused only 17 minutes before the moment that it was set to explode.”
It was unclear whether he was referring to the bomb found in Leicester or the device found in Dubai.
A Metropolitan Police source said they were “still investigating” what time the device found at East Midlands airport was set to explode.
A US official confirmed that they did not have a time for the planned attack either.
“If this was a reference to the device found in the Federal Express site in Dubai, then it is not correct,” a source in the United Arab Emirates told the Associated Press.
British police at first failed to find the bombs and gave the all-clear at the airport, later returning when they had spoken to the authorities in Dubai.
The device is currently being investigated at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratories at Fort Halstead in Kent .
Sources have told the Daily Telegraph that both bombs were set to go off using a dismantled mobile phone alarm clock as a timer.
It is thought that the detonator was made of lead azide in a syringe which was set to react with PETN high explosive inside the toner cartridge of two desk top printers.
US investigators believe they intercepted a dry run in mid-September sending packages of books and CDs from Yemen to Chicago in order to time when the aircraft carrying the packages would be over the Atlantic.
German officials have revealed that the British bomb contained 400g of the high explosive PETN, one of the components of Semtex, and the device in Dubai contained 300g.
The bomb-maker is said to be Ibrahim al-Asiri of the terrorist group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP), the same group responsible for the Christmas Day underpants bomb.
Their target is thought to have been the passenger jets on which much cargo is transported, although the bomb brought into East Midlands airport was on a cargo jet.
The packages were addressed to two synagogues in Chicago but names on the parcels referred to historic figures and the addresses were out of date.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, said on Wednesday that an “associate” of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was arrested earlier this year and was allegedly planning a terrorist attack in Britain.
The individual was in touch with Anwar al-Awlaki, one of the leaders of the Yemen-based al-Qaeda group, and was planning an attack on passenger aircrafts.
Another man with links to Britain was also arrested in Yemen in connection with the alleged plot, sources said.