By Paul Cruickshank, Tim Lister and Nic Robertson
The story would not be out of place on the TV thriller "Homeland": the Danish petty criminal turned double agent who receives $250,000 in cash for helping the CIA try to ensnare one of al Qaeda's most wanted - by finding him a wife.
The wanted man was American-born al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who had become one of the most effective propagandists for the group. The bride-to-be was a pretty blonde from Croatia. The agent was Morten Storm, who had long moved in radical Islamist circles and had apparently won the trust of al-Awlaki during a stay in Yemen in 2006.FULL STORY
By Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister
The video recovered by Spanish security services shows a man guiding a large remote-controlled plane in the skies of southern Spain. The plane banks and begins a controlled descent. Two packets drop - one from either wing - to the delight of the "pilot."
According to Fernando Reinares, senior terrorism analyst at Madrid's Elcano Royal Institute, Spanish security services believe the video was made not by an enthusiastic hobbyist, but by a committed terrorist trying to convert a toy plane into a potentially deadly bomber.
The home video was recovered last week, along with explosives, in what Spanish authorities called one of the most significant operations against al Qaeda in the country.
By Paul Cruickshank, Nic Robertson, and Tim Lister
Editor's note: This report is based on a one-year investigation by CNN into air cargo security in light of a thwarted plot by al Qaeda in October 2010 to blow up cargo jets over the United States. CNN's Nic Robertson's report "Deadly Cargo" aired on CNN Presents in February 2012.
Ibrahim al-Asiri is the sort of terrorist who keeps intelligence officials awake at night. He’s al Qaeda’s chief bomb-maker, and he built explosive devices hidden in printer cartridges that got onto several planes in October 2010. He’s still at large in Yemen. The bomb plots he’s alleged to have masterminded – the 2009 underwear bomb plot and printer bombs dispatched to the United States in 2010 – have very nearly worked. And security experts say al-Asiri and al Qaeda in Yemen may yet penetrate the security screening that is meant to protect aviation.
ALSO WATCH: Reconstructing al Qaeda's printer bomb
Editor's note: This report is based on a one-year investigation by CNN into air cargo security in light of a thwarted plot by al Qaeda in October 2010 to blow up cargo jets over the United States. CNN's Nic Robertson's report "Deadly Cargo" airs on CNN Presents, Saturday and Sunday February 18, 19 at 8 p.m. ET.
By Paul Cruickshank
In late October 2010 al Qaeda in the Arabian Penisula (AQAP) dropped off two “printer bombs” at UPS and FedEx offices in Yemen addressed to the United States.
They were amongst the most sophisticated devices ever put together by al Qaeda terrorists, according to officials. FULL POST
By Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister, CNN
The F-86 Sabre was a fighter jet that played a pivotal role in the Korean War. And it was a model of that plane – packed with high explosive – that Rezwan Ferdaus allegedly planned to use to launch his own war against iconic targets in Washington D.C.
Miniature versions of the plane – 5 feet 6 inches long – can easily be acquired for less than $200 from websites serving model plane enthusiasts.
"Provides authoritative rudder control so you can execute point rolls and knife-edge flight with precision," reads the promotion material for the model on one website.
According to the affidavit in the case against Ferdaus, one of these F-86 models was delivered in August to a storage facility in Framingham, Massachusetts that he had rented under a false name to build his attack planes and maintain all his equipment. FULL POST
By Nic Robertson, Paul Cruickshank, and Tim Lister
This article is based on an investigation of several months into the threat posed by explosive devices disguised in air cargo.
Late last October, a pair of innocuous packages were dropped off at a courier’s office in Sanaa, Yemen, for shipping to an address in Chicago. Hours later, the two brown boxes - stuffed with books, clothing, and brand new laser printers - were loaded into the cargo hold of passenger planes bound for Dubai and Doha on the first leg of their journey to the United States.
What the hundreds of passengers on those flights did not know was that ingeniously concealed in the printer cartridges inside those printers were explosive devices containing a white powdery chemical known as PETN. FULL POST
By Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister, CNN
Khalid Aldawsari lived in a nondescript apartment block in the university town of Lubbock, Texas. He was – ostensibly – a student, who had arrived in the United States in 2008 from Saudi Arabia. But he was also keeping a journal, which allegedly included this entry:
“After mastering the English language, learning how to build explosives, and continuous planning to target the infidel Americans, it is time for Jihad.”
His preparations allegedly included research online into bomb components, life-like dolls in which explosives could be placed, and a number of possible targets including the Dallas residence of former U.S. President George W. Bush. The FBI were only alerted to the alleged plot after a North Carolina-based chemical supply company reported their suspicions over an online purchase made by Aldawsari in late January. He was arrested a month later and subsequently pleaded not guilty to attempting to carry out a bomb attack on U.S. soil. His trial begins next January.
In the indictment against Aldawsari, there are no conspirators mentioned. In many ways, such cases are the worst nightmare of counter-terrorism officials: “lone wolf” individuals acting alone, untraceable through any contacts with other terror suspects, capable of teaching themselves how to launch a terror attack. FULL POST
Analysis by CNN's Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister
If Younis al-Mauretani has been arrested in Pakistan, it is another significant blow against the operational ambitions of al Qaeda. Counter-terrorism analysts say he had become a key planner for the group in recent years - and he appears to have had direct contact with Osama bin Laden.
Like many in al Qaeda, al-Mauritania adopted his country of origin as his last name. He was from the sparsely populated desert state of Mauritania in north-west Africa. Al Qaeda has recruited extensively from Mauritania and neighboring countries, where al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb now has a foothold.
Al-Mauretani's stature within al Qaeda appears to have grown in the last two years. According to European intelligence officials, he was involved in planning attacks in Europe in the fall of 2010. Fears that such attacks would materialize led the U.S. State Department to issue a travel alert in October 2010. The alert said that "current information suggests that al Qaeda and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks." It added that some European governments were warning of "heightened threat conditions."