Friday's al-Qaeda cargo plane bomb plot "seconds from Lockerbie II"

So says, which is reporting:

Explosives found inside a modified printer ink cartridge on board a cargo plane at East Midlands Airport were primed to detonate in mid-air.

The device was active when counter-terror police swooped on the aircraft early on Friday.

Yemen-based terrorists had built the bomb to go off in British air space, just like the Lockerbie atrocity of 1988 which killed 270 people.

Home Secretary Theresa May yesterday said: “I can confirm that the device was viable and could have exploded. The target may have been an aircraft and had it it detonated, the aircraft could have been brought down.”

Security chiefs initially believed the bomb, which was to be activated via a timer, was destined for a synagogue in the US.

But Mrs May said: “We do not believe that the perpetrators of the attack would have known the location of the device when it was planned to explode.”

Speaking at Chequers, David Cameron said: “We believe the device was designed to go off on the aeroplane.

“We cannot be sure about the timing when that was meant to take place.”

Had the plane exploded and crashed on to Nottingham, Leicester or Derby, all within a 10-mile radius of the airport, hundreds of lives would have been lost.

According to the report, the device found in Britain was “live” with an active timer that was counting down. PETN, the same compound used last December by “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was the explosive found in the device. British authorities arrested several UPS and FedEx employees and are questioning them in an attempt to ascertain whether ground crew were involved in getting the bomb onto the plane, or attempting to prevent it from being detected.

And check out the amazing work by UK Government Communications and MI6 operatives that led to the devices being discovered:

The alert was triggered by intelligence from a unit of GCHQ surveillance experts stationed in Afghanistan, the Sunday Express can reveal. Operating from a converted shipping container in Helmand, the team picked up the words “A wedding gift is being delivered”.

The phrase is an Al Qaeda code meaning a bomb is in transit.

With the help of Saudi agents, GCHQ alerted MI6, which raised the alarm in London and Washington.

Counter-terror police intercepted the United Parcel Service plane bound from Yemen to Chicago when it stopped to refuel at East Midlands Airport at 3am on Friday.

The suspect package was found with wires protruding from it and connected to mobile phone components. A similar device was found on board another plane in Dubai.

Yesterday security officials in Yemen announced that investigators had seized and examined 26 other suspect packages in the capital, San’a.

It was also revealed last night that a woman had been arrested in San’a on suspicion of sending explosive packages on cargo planes to the US.

While it didn’t go down quite like in the movies, we still owe 007’s colleagues in British intelligence a huge debt of gratitude on this one.

More at

(h/t Jawa Report)

UPDATE 10/31: Still more info from The Associated Press.

According to news reports, authorities are now convinced that the bombs found in England and Dubai were designed to detonate in mid-flight, presumably bringing the planes down over heavy populated areas — although the last-minute changes in flight schedules and routes that are common to cargo flights meant that the bombers could have not known exactly where their devices would have detonated.

Initially, British authorities found the smaller triggering device aboard the UPS flight, but failed to detect the printer cartridge packed with PETN until after they were directed by Dubai officials to look specifically for it. In both the British and Dubai flights, airline security initially failed to detect the bombs.

Authorities are now attempting to determine if there are additional devices that have so far gone undetected.

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