Student 'tricked' into Yemen bomb plot



SANA'A // The Yemeni woman arrested in the investigation into mail bombs found in Dubai and England has nothing to do with the terror plot, her lawyer said yesterday

"We believe she is innocent and has been tricked," said Abdulrehman Barman, a lawyer at the National Organisation for Defending Rights and Freedoms, in Sana'a.

Last night Yemen authorities released Hanan Mohammed al Samawi, a 22-year-old University of Sana'a student. She agreed to make herself available for further questioning.

Police had arrested Ms al Samawi after her mobile phone number was found on a receipt linked to the packages dropped at FedEx and UPS offices in Sana'a and found on planes in Dubai and England after a tip-off from intelligence officials in Saudi Arabia.

Hundreds of students at the university had protested yesterday against Ms al Samawi's arrest and demanded that she be released.

A spokesman for Qatar Airways said yesterday one of the bombs addressed to synagogues in the Chicago area had travelled on two passenger planes in the Middle East.

A package containing explosives hidden in a printer cartridge arrived at Qatar Airways' hub in Doha on one of the carrier's flights from Sana'a. It was then shipped on a separate Qatar Airways plane to Dubai, where it was discovered by authorities late on Thursday or early on Friday. A second, similar package turned up in England on Friday.

The spokesman did not give any timeframe for the two flights. The airline operates daily passenger flights from Yemen that could also carry courier packages.

The plot exposes security gaps in international air travel and cargo shipping nearly a decade after the 9/11 attacks on the United States and showed terrorists appear to be probing those vulnerabilities. The US said the plot bore the hallmarks of al Qa'eda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terror group's offshoot in Yemen, which was behind the failed bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner last Christmas.

In Dubai and London yesterday, aviation officials said it was extremely difficult to screen cargo thoroughly. They said the kind of intelligence that led to tips about the bombs remained essential to airline safety.

In Washington, Barack Obama's counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said yesterday that authorities "have to presume" there might be more mail bombs.

The British prime minister, David Cameron, said he believed the bomb found at East Midlands airport in England was intended to detonate on the plane.

The home secretary, Theresa May, said it was powerful enough to take down the aircraft. A US official said the bomb found in Dubai was thought to be similar in strength.

A US official and a British security consultant said yesterday that the bomb that turned up in England nearly slipped past investigators even after they were tipped off.

After a six-hour sweep of cargo at the airport, Leicestershire police failed to find the bomb and removed the security perimeter they had set up, British aviation safety consultant Chris Yates said.

But when officials in Dubai discovered a bomb disguised as a computer printer cartridge, authorities urged the British to look again.

"As a direct consequence, they put the cordon back up again and looked again and found the explosives," said Mr Yates.

Brennan, Mr Obama's counterterrorism adviser, called it "a very sophisticated device, in terms of how it was constructed".

"It was a viable device. It was self-contained, so it could have been detonated and activated," Mr Brennan told NBC's Meet the Press. Officials were trying to determine whether the planes or the synagogues were the intended targets, he said

In Yemen yesterday, the police investigation continued. The president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, told reporters that the UAE and the US had provided intelligence that helped to identify Ms al Samawi.

The student is not known to be involved in any political activity or to have ties to any Islamic groups, Mr Barman said. He said she had not been allowed access to a lawyer.

"Finding her phone number on the parcel is not enough evidence of her involvement," Mr Barman said. "We are afraid she might be a victim of the unruly war on terrorism."
Hundreds of Sana'a University students protested in front of the campus. "Am I terrorist if I have lost my ID card?" one poster read.

"Hanan is a cheerful person and a hardworking student. She is not the kind of person who hates the West. She loves foreign movies and music and laughs with her friends," said Suha Shjuaaeddin, her classmate.

Ms al Samawi lives with her parents and is the eldest of seven children.

"There is nothing suspicious about the girl and her family. There is a broad resentment at her arrest among all the people here," said Abdulrehman Shaikhan, a 20-year-old neighbour of the family.

Yemeni officials said additional suspects were believed to have used forged documents and ID cards. One member of Yemen's anti-terrorism unit said the other suspects had been tied to al Qa'eda. Authorities were also looking at two language institutions in Yemen with which the plotters may have been associated.
It was still not clear whether the bombs, which were wired to mobile phones, timers and power supplies, could have been detonated remotely while the planes were in the air, or when the packages were halfway around the world in the US.

Al Qa'eda in the Arabian Peninsula took responsibility for the failed bomb last Christmas that used PETN, an explosive that was also in the mail bombs found on Friday.

The suspected bombmaker behind the Christmas attack, Ibrahim Hassan al Asiri, is also the prime suspect in the mail bomb plot. He helped to make another PETN device for a failed suicide attempt against Saudi Arabia's counterterrorism chief last year. The attacker died in that blast.

malqadhi@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by the Associated Press

Our legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

Q&A with Dash Berlin

Welcome back. What was it like to return to RAK and to play for fans out here again?
It’s an amazing feeling to be back in the passionate UAE again. Seeing the fans having a great time that is what it’s all about.

You're currently touring the globe as part of your Legends of the Feels Tour. How important is it to you to include the Middle East in the schedule?
The tour is doing really well and is extensive and intensive at the same time travelling all over the globe. My Middle Eastern fans are very dear to me, it’s good to be back.

You mix tracks that people know and love, but you also have a visually impressive set too (graphics etc). Is that the secret recipe to Dash Berlin's live gigs?
People enjoying the combination of the music and visuals are the key factor in the success of the Legends Of The Feel tour 2018.

Have you had some time to explore Ras al Khaimah too? If so, what have you been up to?
Coming fresh out of Las Vegas where I continue my 7th annual year DJ residency at Marquee, I decided it was a perfect moment to catch some sun rays and enjoy the warm hospitality of Bab Al Bahr.

 

How will Gen Alpha invest?

Mark Chahwan, co-founder and chief executive of robo-advisory firm Sarwa, forecasts that Generation Alpha (born between 2010 and 2024) will start investing in their teenage years and therefore benefit from compound interest.

“Technology and education should be the main drivers to make this happen, whether it’s investing in a few clicks or their schools/parents stepping up their personal finance education skills,” he adds.

Mr Chahwan says younger generations have a higher capacity to take on risk, but for some their appetite can be more cautious because they are investing for the first time. “Schools still do not teach personal finance and stock market investing, so a lot of the learning journey can feel daunting and intimidating,” he says.

He advises millennials to not always start with an aggressive portfolio even if they can afford to take risks. “We always advise to work your way up to your risk capacity, that way you experience volatility and get used to it. Given the higher risk capacity for the younger generations, stocks are a favourite,” says Mr Chahwan.

Highlighting the role technology has played in encouraging millennials and Gen Z to invest, he says: “They were often excluded, but with lower account minimums ... a customer with $1,000 [Dh3,672] in their account has their money working for them just as hard as the portfolio of a high get-worth individual.”

Our legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Clinicy
Started: 2017
Founders: Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman, Abdullah bin Sulaiman Alobaid and Saud bin Sulaiman Alobaid
Based: Riyadh
Number of staff: 25
Sector: HealthTech
Total funding raised: More than $10 million
Investors: Middle East Venture Partners, Gate Capital, Kafou Group and Fadeed Investment

Other acts on the Jazz Garden bill

Sharrie Williams
The American singer is hugely respected in blues circles due to her passionate vocals and songwriting. Born and raised in Michigan, Williams began recording and touring as a teenage gospel singer. Her career took off with the blues band The Wiseguys. Such was the acclaim of their live shows that they toured throughout Europe and in Africa. As a solo artist, Williams has also collaborated with the likes of the late Dizzy Gillespie, Van Morrison and Mavis Staples.
Lin Rountree
An accomplished smooth jazz artist who blends his chilled approach with R‘n’B. Trained at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, DC, Rountree formed his own band in 2004. He has also recorded with the likes of Kem, Dwele and Conya Doss. He comes to Dubai on the back of his new single Pass The Groove, from his forthcoming 2018 album Stronger Still, which may follow his five previous solo albums in cracking the top 10 of the US jazz charts.
Anita Williams
Dubai-based singer Anita Williams will open the night with a set of covers and swing, jazz and blues standards that made her an in-demand singer across the emirate. The Irish singer has been performing in Dubai since 2008 at venues such as MusicHall and Voda Bar. Her Jazz Garden appearance is career highlight as she will use the event to perform the original song Big Blue Eyes, the single from her debut solo album, due for release soon.

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Cricketer of the Year+– Shaheen Afridi+(Pakistan)

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