London: Ink cartridges turned into powerful
bombs by suspected al Qaeda militants contained ample
explosives to blow up 50 jets, according to experts.
"Had even one of the powerful devices gone off, it would
have ripped an aircraft in half," British Home Secretary
Theresa May was quoted as saying by the tabloid `The Sun`.
May confirmed that the murderous capability of al Qaeda`s
latest weapons confirmed that fanatics in Yemen, who hatched
the plot were planning fresh strikes in US and Europe.
Sun quoting British forensic experts said 300g of the
powerful substance PETN was found in one of the bombs hidden
in a computer printer cartridge and the other bomb had even
more lethal potency of 400g.
Hans Michels, Professor of Safety Engineering at
University College London told the paper that just 6g - around
50 times less than was used - would be enough to blast a hole
in metal plate twice the thickness of an aircraft`s skin.
"That amount of PETN could do a whole lot of damage. It
could destroy a house, blown a hole in the side of the ship
and if it had been close to the wall of the aeroplane, it
would definitely destroy it," Michels said.
PETN (pentaerythritol tetranitrate), which he said was
the weapon of choice for attacks by al Qaeda and was also used
in previous unsuccessful attempt to bring down a passenger
liner over Detroit, last Christmas.
The Nigerian bomber, Umar Farouk had used only 80g in his
pants, while the prime suspect Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri`s
brother had also used PETN to assassinate a Saudi minister.
Though the British experts have discovered how the bombs
were to be set off, no details have emerged of the detonators.
The team at the government`s Fort Halstead research
complex based in Kent is also trying to work out the planned
timing of any blasts, to identify the targets.
As security agencies piece together the potency of the
mailed explosives, US officials have said that the mailed
devices may have been targeted to blow up aircraft rather than
A source said: "It would appear from the evidence so far
that the terrorists wanted the devices to be in the air for as
long as possible. We believe that may be one reason why the
packages were addressed to Chicago - because of the length of
flight times involved."
"Now we are trying to work out whether al Qaeda wanted
the bombs to explode when the aircraft were over the Atlantic
or over land. If the planes plunged into the sea, it would
have been deduced a terrorist attack - but finding the precise
cause would have been almost impossible."
The source further added that work is going on to figure
out how long it would have taken before devices would have
gone off after take-off.