October 29, 2010: Authorities foil transatlantic bombing plot

On October 29, 2010 Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) tried to place explosive devices on UPS and Fedex cargo planes bound for the US

YEMEN – Many have a fear of flying: having terrorists target commercial and cargo aircraft doesn’t help.

Is there anything more wondrous than flying? I mean, just think about it. We can get around the world in less than a day and see and do things our ancestors could not imagine. Gone are the days of the ‘slow boat from China‘ (wait, is that NOW considered racist?).

An aspect that we don’t give as much thought to, probably because it is not as sexy as international personal travel, is the whole area of transport aircraft. Yes, we also have cargo ships which can carry vastly more in terms of freight, but shipping by air is also a huge part of the world economy (international freight volumes reached 66.2 million metric tonnes in 2021). Given the backlog of container ships (and the subsequent effect on supply chains) now plaguing the world maybe more will turn to the air.

Alas, terrorists also keep an eye on the stats.

On this day in 2010

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) tried to place explosive devices on UPS and Fedex cargo planes bound for the US. The devices, loaded with the powerful explosive PETN, were packed in computer printer toner cartridges and designed to be detonated by a cell phone.

We intend to spread the idea to our mujahedeen brothers in the world and enlarge the circle of its application to include civilian aircraft in the West as well as cargo aircraft.

AQAP statement

While the plot failed it did send shivers throughout the international air cargo community. US officials said that the devices found in the packages last week were very sophisticated – they could not be detected by existing security methods – and could have exploded in flight. The packages were discovered thanks to a tip from Saudi Arabia which provided tracking numbers of the two packages bound for Jewish organizations in the US.

This time the terrorists failed. That does not mean they will stop trying.

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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