(CBS/AP) A former al Qaeda member may have provided help that led to the discovery of intricate bombs on two U.S.-bound cargo planes, reports the Associated Press.
Jabir al-Fayfi, who previously had been detained in Guantanamo Bay, turned himself into Saudi Arabian authorities in late September and gave them information that helped unravel the mail bomb plot, Yemeni security officials and tribal leaders told the AP.
But the specific nature of al-Fayfi's assistance remains unclear and Saudi authorities haven't yet commented on the reports of his involvement.
According to the report, Saudi Arabia alerted U.S. officials to the plot and included specific tracking numbers for the bomb-laden packages, which originated in Yemen and were addressed to religious institutions in the Chicago area. It's unclear how Saudi Arabia procured that information, but it's doubtful al-Fayfi provided it - he surrendered to the Saudis before the explosives were mailed, the report notes.
But al-Fayfi could have been in a position to provide more general information about the plot.
He was captured in Afghanistan on 2001by U.S. forces, and held in Guantanamo Bay until early 2007, where he was turned over to Saudi authorities. There, he was enrolled in a militant rehabilitation program before fleeing to Yemen and rejoining al Qaeda. But he recently surrendered to Saudi authorities. If the Yemeni officials are correct about his role in thwarting the plot, he presumably offered the Saudis information after turning himself in.
In fact, Yemeni officials suspect he had been serving as a "double agent" planted in al Qaeda by the Saudis, according to the AP.
Adding to this speculation is the revelation that, just around the time al-Fayfi turned himself in, Saudi Arabia warned European authorities of a new terror threat from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), saying the group's operatives were active on the continent, particularly in France.
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Saudi Arabia has for years been working to infiltrate al Qaeda in Yemen, its unstable southern neighbor, but stepped up its efforts last year when a Yemeni suicide bomber posing as a reformed jihadist blew himself up next to Prince Muhammed bin Nayef, chief of Saudi counterterrorism operations. The prince was only lightly injured.
"That was the thing that infuriated the Saudis and made them step up their intelligence operations in Yemen and almost completely sidestep the Yemenis," a Yemeni security official familiar with the Saudi kingdom's activity in his country told the AP.
"They recruited hundreds of informers and began to spend even more lavishly on their allies," said the official, who agreed to share the information in exchange for anonymity.
U.S. intelligence officials say they are certain that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula - particularly Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri - is responsible for the mail bomb plot, reports CBS News homeland security correspondent Bob Orr.
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