Just days before the news broke about the CIA’s takedown of a plot involving a sophisticated new underwear bomb, al-Qaida’s affiliate in Yemen publicly boasted that it had vastly expanded and improved its capabilities for making such devices.
That boast — contained in a largely overlooked passage of Inspire, the online propaganda organ of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) — has fueled concerns that there may be other versions of the seized device and more bomb makers assembling them, according to U.S. security officials and members of Congress who have been briefed on the case.
“They have a team of engineers, scientists and doctors. It’s a little spooky,” said Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, a member of the Homeland Security Committee who was briefed this week on the intelligence operation that U.S. officials say thwarted an AQAP plot to bomb a U.S.-bound airliner. “In my view, it’s very likely they have produced more of these.”
One hint at the expansion of AQAP’s bomb-making capabilities can be found in passages in an article entitled “Wining on the Ground,” found on the 57th page of the latest 59-page edition of Inspire, released by AQAP last weekend.
In 2009, AQAP had only a “very modest and small laboratory in a rural area” to make bombs, the author of the article –identified as Yahya Ibrahim — wrote.