A significant risk that another package will end up on a passenger aircraft transiting to the US, says Exclusive Analysis

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the group behind the recent failed cargo plane bomb plot, is actively building the capacity for other attacks on aviation, transport, government buildings and public figures, warned Exclusive Analysis.

On 29 October, two packages containing explosives were shipped from San’a, in the Yemen, addressed to Jewish facilities in the US. One of the packages was shipped via UPS; it travelled via Cologne, Germany, and was discovered by security in a shipping facility in the East Midlands, UK. The second package was sent via FedEx and travelled on Qatar Airways from Yemen to Doha and on to Dubai where it was also stopped after security checks.

The packages were discovered after Saudi officials alerted the UK and US authorities.

The man believed to be behind the plot was Ibrahim Hussan al-Asiri. He is suspected of also building the bomb used by Abdulmutallab in the Boxing Day Delta/Northwest airline bomb plot last year.

AQAP has traditionally focused on government and Western targets in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, explained political risk specialists Exclusive Analysis, but it is taking an increasingly prominent role in the global Jihadist movement.

A new element in this plot is the apparent use of a female operative to post the packages. The cultural difficulty in Yemen of conducting security searches against women increases the chances of a plot succeeding, said the global risk forecasters.

The failure of the plot indicates that Saudi intelligence agents have successfully penetrated AQAP and the terrorist group is likely to become more stringent with security. This will reduce the risk of another attempted in attach in the coming months, said Exclusive Analysis.

The US already uses “hawkish” surveillance drones to launch missiles at suspected AQAP members in Yemen. But because these are backed by poor intelligence on the ground they are likely to alienate large sections of the Yemeni population, continued Exclusive Analysis.

Tighter security and longer transit times from countries deemed as high risk can be expected in the aftermath of this plot. But it Exclusive Analysis believes it is unrealistic for the US to require screening down to the parcel level for cargo shipments, even from high risk countries. “There is a significant risk that another package will end up on a passenger aircraft transiting to the US,” said the analysts.

MI5 Director General, Jonathan Evans, made these comments about the Yemen threat earlier this year:

The other area of increased concern in respect of the domestic threat to the UK is Yemen. The AQ affiliate based in Yemen, known as Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is the group that among other things developed the concealable non-metallic underpants bomb used in both the attempt to murder the Saudi Security Minister His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed Bin Naif in 2009 and in the narrowly averted Christmas 2009 aircraft bombing over Detroit by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. The operational involvement of Yemen based preacher Anwar Al Awlaqi with AQAP is of particular concern given his wide circle of adherents in the West, including in the UK. His influence is all the wider because he preaches and teaches in the English language which makes his message easier to access and understand for Western audiences. We saw his hand in the Abdulmutallab case. There is a real risk that one of his adherents will respond to his urging to violence and mount an attack in the UK, possibly acting alone and with little formal training, and we have seen a surge in Yemen related casework this year. The outcome of some of these investigations has been reported in the media.