International

Al-Qaeda insider told Saudis of bomb plot: Yemen

Information that helped thwart the plot of U.S.-bound mail bombs wired to explode on cargo planes came from an al-Qaeda insider who was secreted out of Yemen after surrendering to Saudi authorities, according to Yemeni security officials.

The tip reflects how Saudi Arabia has worked aggressively for years to infiltrate al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is operating in the unruly, impoverished nation on its southern doorstep.

The tip came from Jabir al-Fayfi, a Saudi who was held for years at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007. Soon after, he fled Saudi Arabia and joined the al-Qaida affiliate in Yemen, until he turned himself in to Saudi authorities in late September.

Yemeni security officials said yesterday they believe al-Fayfi may have been a double agent, planted by Saudi Arabia in Yemen among al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula militants to uncover their plots.

The officials said that after his return to the kingdom, he told authorities that al-Qaeda was planning to send bomb-laden packages.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Tribal leaders in Yemen aware of the situation, and similarly speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed al-Fayfi’s role. Saudi officials did not respond to calls for comment.

Saudi Arabia has been recruiting informants in the terrorist network and also has been paying Yemeni tribal chiefs and even gives cash to figures in the Yemeni military to gain their loyalty.

President Barack Obama thanked Saudi King Abdullah, a top US ally, in a Saturday telephone call for the “critical role” by Saudi counter-terrorism authorities in uncovering the plot.

After the Saudi alert, two bombs hidden in packages mailed from Yemen and addressed to synagogues in Chicago were discovered Friday on planes transiting through Dubai and Britain.

Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, considered a key figure in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is the chief suspect behind assembling the sophisticated mail bombs, according to US intelligence officials.

German officials said yesterday the mail bombs contained 300 grams and 400 grams of the explosive PETN enough to cause “significant” damage to the planes. By contrast, the explosives that failed to work last Christmas on Detroit-bound airliner used 80 grams of PETN secreted in the underwear of a Nigerian passenger. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for that.

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Printable version | Aug 7, 2020 6:10:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/Al-Qaeda-insider-told-Saudis-of-bomb-plot-Yemen/article15673289.ece

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