Major military operation under way to find Ibrahim al-Asiri, a key suspect in last week’s foiled air cargo bomb plot.
|Theresa May said Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula were able to project a threat beyond the borders of Yemen [AFP]|
A suspected member of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap), the group believed to be behind a foiled parcel bomb attack last week, was arrested in the UK earlier this year, Britain’s interior minister has said.
Theresa May told a conference in London on Wednesday that an “Aqap associate” had been arrested in the country on suspicion of planning attacks in Britain.
“He is alleged to have been planning a terrorist attack in this country. Threats such as this are likely to continue,” she said.
Her comments come after the British government ordered a security review of all air freight after two parcel bombs originating in Yemen and bound for the US were found on cargo planes in the UK and Dubai on Friday.
May said she believed Aqap, a Yemen-based group, were behind the packages and that they had involved sophisticated bomb-making.
“The explosive device was deeply concealed in the cartridge of a printer and connected to a hidden power source in sections of a mobile telephone,” she said.
“The specifics of this attack – notably the type of device and how it was concealed – were new to us.”
May said the group “now has a very substantial operational capability in Yemen,” citing a suicide bomb attack on the British ambassador to Yemen in April and a rocket strike against a diplomatic convoy last month.
“But they have also shown the ability to project a threat far beyond the borders of Yemen,” she said during a speech to the Royal United Services Institute.
The minister said that the government would be looking to tackle “terrorist plots” in other countries in an attempt to prevent attacks in Britain.
“We will invest in conflict prevention and stopping terrorist plots overseas; we will refocus the strategy for preventing radicalisation in the UK; and we will strike a better balance between our liberties and our security,” she said.
May also raised concerns at the flow of people travelling from Britain to train and fight in Somalia, saying that left unchecked, those allied with the al-Shabaab group would likely return and seek “to commit mass murder on the streets of London”.
Last week’s incident has led to tightened security in a number of countries, with cargo flights from Yemen suspended in the Netherlands, Canada, France and the US, while Germany extended its ban to include passenger flights.