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Worldwide alert -

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The world's latest terrorist scare - the botched bomb plot traced to Al-Qaeda headquarters in


KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: The detection of two powerful bombs concealed in air cargo destined for
the United States has sparked a frantic scramble on three continents for any other explosive
devices that may still be en route from the Gulf state of Yemen.

US officials say the two bombs were so sophisticated they bear all the hallmarks of Yemen's top
Al-Qaeda bomb-maker.

It's the third known attempt by Al-Qaeda to a launch an attack on Western interests from Yemen over
the past year. It also confirms Yemen's re-emergence as the global headquarters for Al-Qaeda.

Deborah Cornwall reports.

I believe the threat is certainly ongoing. And we're not going to rest until we find the people who
are responsible for this and find whatever other devices might be out there.

DEBORAH CORNWALL, REPORTER: The weekend discovery of two bombs concealed inside printer cartridges
is the kind of scenario anti-terrorist experts have been steeling themselves for for months.

The plan at this stage appears that those bombs were to go off mid-flight and bring down the

DEBORAH CORNWALL: The first package was almost missed by British authorities after it had flown on
two passenger planes through Germany. Around the same time, a second device was discovered on a
freight plane in Dubai en route to the United States. Both devices say the experts, bearing all the
hallmarks of Yemen's top Al-Qaeda bomb-maker, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri.

JOHN BRENNAN, US DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: The individual who has been making these bombs
is a very dangerous individual. Clearly somebody who has a fair amount of training and experience
and we need to find him, we need to bring him justice as soon as we can.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: According to anti-terrorist chiefs, al-Asiri's involvement in these latest
attacks simply confirms Yemen's re-emergence as the new operations central of Al-Qaeda. In the past
year alone, al-Asiri has been linked to two other thwarted attacks - the attempted assassination of
Saudi Arabian prince Mohammed bin Nayef and a suicide bomber who had concealed explosives in his
underpants on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit last Christmas.

CARL UNGERER, AUSTRALIAN STRATEGIC POLICY INSTITUTE: Al-Qaeda seems to have returned to the Arabian
Peninsula. It is growing stronger daily. Hundreds of plots are being hatched out of there.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: The West's intelligence networks appear to have averted this latest threat, but
Al-Qaeda's resurgence in Yemen pose as a new and unprecedented challenge for anti-terrorist forces.

CARL UNGERER: The focus of the last few years of course after 9/11 has been on passenger aircraft,
and so these groups are looking for the weakest link in the entire aviation security chain and
appear to have found it in the cargo sector at this stage. That's not going to kill a lot of
people, but it is going to provide that spectacular event of an aircraft blowing up mid-flight that
they are looking for.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: The Australian Strategic Policy Institute says there's also evidence of novel and
more sophisticated devices, including explosives that can be sewn inside the body. These devices
can only be detected with the use of body scanners, a security measure which is still being
resisted in most countries, including Australia.

CARL UNGERER: Clearly these groups have shown a degree of innovation in the types of bombs that
they're making and how they're using them. Things like prosthetic limbs, women masquerading as
being pregnant, but in fact carrying a bomb inside a cavity in their bellies. Even the idea that
breast implants or buttock implants could be used to hide a bombing device.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: A growing nervousness over increased terrorist activity prompted a recent high
threat alert in Europe, including warnings crowded tourist areas had been targeted for
indiscriminate attacks by terrorists. Then, just two days ago, the chief of Britain's secret
service, Sir John Sawers, broke with tradition, reminding the country that it remained under the
very real risk of terrorist attack, in particular from Al-Qaeda forces in Yemen.

JOHN SAWERS, MI6 (Last Friday): You and millions of people like you go about your business in our
cities and towns free of fear because the British Government works tirelessly out of the public eye
to stop terrorists and would-be terrorists in their tracks.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Within hours of the explosives being discovered, protests erupted on the streets
of Yemen's capital Sana'a over the arrests of a mother and daughter. Initially linked to the plot,
they were released within hours after it was found they'd been victims of an identity fraud by the

Middle East analysts say anti-terrorist agencies face a complex challenge, trying to rein in
Al-Qaeda's resurgence in Yemen. Osama bin Laden's ancestral home, it was from Yemen Al-Qaeda first
launched its attacks against the West, starting the 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi,
which killed more than 200 people. Two years later, they launched a direct attack on the USS Cole.

PHILIP ELIASON, MIDDLE EAST ANALYST: One of the most dangerous things that the West can do in
response to incidents like this latest round of aircraft - you know, the parcel bombing is to send
in military intervention. We should be providing hope for the future, rather than an iron hand on
the Yemeni people.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: With a mainly Muslim population of 23 million, the once-prosperous spice trading
nation is now the poorest of the Arab states.

PHILIP ELIASON: In Yemen we're facing a country heading towards collapse, hunger, internal
insurrection and difficulty, a lack of state control and all of these factors help sponsor and help
support radicalism and allow the harbouring of individuals and organisations who seek to attack the

KERRY O'BRIEN: That report from Deborah Cornwall.