Al-Qaeda bomb maker who targeted Chicago on fed's radar

CHICAGO (WLS) -- For nearly 25 years, terrorists have been trying to blow up planes headed to America.

From the "Bojinka" jetliner bomb plot conceived in the early 1990s by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Yousef, to the 2010 printer cartridge bombs destined for Chicago synagogues on cargo planes to last year's plane blast over Somalia, "We know al Qaeda and ISIS want to target civilian aviation" says one intelligence source.

Some authorities today are saying it was "evaluated intelligence gathered over time" that prompted a ban on laptops and other electronics aboard planes from ten airports in terror-linked nations. Others suspect a more sinister, imminent threat may have been in the works.

Non-stop foreign flights, including some from Middle Eastern gateway cities to O'Hare, are affected by the ban.

"What's likely happened is that the U.S. government developed some intelligence that a group or an individual has developed some type of device that they can onto an airplane using a laptop or some other electronic appliance" says terrorism expert Matt Olson.

Chicago was a target of the al Qaeda plot in 2010 when investigators say master bomb maker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri packed explosives in boxes of printer cartridges. Al-Asiri shipped them on FedEx and UPS planes bound for Chicago.
U.S. counter-terror agents say al-Asiri, 34, is developing a new generation of non-metallic bombs that are small enough to be hidden in underwear or even implanted inside the human body.

"Asiri is an evil genius," said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "He is constantly expanding, he is constantly adjusting."

He is also ruthless, having dispatched his own brother to death by hiding a bomb on him before he crossed into Saudi Arabia to target the kingdom's chief counterterrorism official. He has tried to attack the United States three times in the past three years, building small, sophisticated and hard-to-detect devices in his workshop in the rugged terrain of southern Yemen.

Among the explosive design work attributed to al-Asiri is a device built into a laptop computer that detonated a year ago on a Somali passenger jet. The device blew a hole in the skin of the Daallo Airlines plane on but did not down the aircraft, because it detonated 20 minutes into the flight, before it reached cruising altitude. The suspected bomber was blown out of the plane, and his body was recovered on the ground near Mogadishu. The plane returned to the airport. Two people aboard were injured.

Investigators suspect Abdullahi Abdisalam Borleh, a Somali national, carried the laptop computer with a bomb in it onto Daallo Airlines Flight 159, the source said. The bomber knew precisely where to sit and how to place the device to maximize damage. Given the placement, the blast likely would have set off a catastrophic secondary explosion in the fuel tank if the aircraft had reached cruising altitude.
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