Yemen launches major operations to find bomb-maker

US-born, al-Qaida linked cleric charged with plotting to kill foreigners; US authorities suspect "dry run" occurred prior to foiled attack.

November 2, 2010 11:30
1 minute read.
UPS office in Yemen

Yemen UPS. (photo credit: AP)

Yemeni authorities have launched a major military and intelligence operation in the search for a bomb-making suspect, thought to be a key figure responsible for the failed parcel bomb attack on the US, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Additionally, Yemeni prosecutors have charged in absentia a US-born, al-Qaida linked cleric with plotting to kill foreigners, in the first formal legal action by Yemen against Anwar al-Awlak.

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The moves come as the country faces pressure to crack down on the terror network following the interception of two mail bombs intercepted in Dubai and Britain last week.

Anwar al-Awlak, a New Mexico-born cleric, is based in Yemen and has been linked to recent terror attacks in America, including the failed Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit-bound plane.

Also on Tuesday, it was reported that information that helped thwart the plot of US-bound mail bombs wired to explode on cargo planes came from an al-Qaida 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-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which is operating in the unruly, impoverished nation on its southern doorstep.

American intelligence officials tracked and intercepted three suspicious packages in mid-September that they now suspect were sent to the United States as a dry run for the mail bomb scheme intercepted last week, a US official said Monday.

"We received information several weeks ago that potentially connected these packages to AQAP. The boxes were stopped in transit and searched. They contained papers, books, and other materials, but no explosives," said the official, who was familiar with details of the shipments and spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified intelligence.

The apparent dry run was disclosed first Monday night in a report by ABC News.

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