Nov. 21, 2010 -- Printer bombs planted on two cargo flights last month cost only a few thousand dollars and were intended to affect the American economy, according to a newly published Al Qaeda-affiliated magazine.
The attempt was called "Operation Hemorrhage," boasted the magazine, and the entire plot cost al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, only $4,200.
Yesterday, a special edition of Inspire magazine -- an English-language propaganda publication produced by AQAP -- gave a detailed description of how the attempted attack was conceived and produced.
"Two Nokia mobiles, $150 each, two HP printers, $300 each, plus shipping, transportation and other miscellaneous expenses add up to a total bill of $4,200," one article said. "That is all that Operation Hemorrhage cost us. In terms of time, it took us three months to plan and execute the operation from beginning to end."
The magazine also revealed the attack was not meant to kill more than the plane's pilot and co-pilot, and was meant to force the U.S. government to spend billions of dollars on preventive security screening measures.
The strategy, the magazine said, was "of attacking the enemy with smaller, but more frequent operations is what some may refer to as the strategy of a thousand cuts. The aim is to bleed the enemy to death."
AQAP also took credit for the September crash of a UPS cargo flight in Dubai. However, U.S. and U.A.E. officials have concluded that the crash was not an act of terrorism.
Level of Detail From AQAP Unusual
The publication was unusual for the level of detail and candor with which AQAP revealed its attempt and threatened future attacks, said a terrorism analyst who monitors jihadist groups online.
"We have never seen a jihadist group in the al-Qaeda orbit ever release, let alone only a few weeks after, such a detailed accounting of the philosophy, operational details, intent and next steps following a major attack," said Ben Venzke, head of IntelCenter.
"This may represent a new level of interaction by jihadi groups following an operation and is a far cry from the days of shadowy claims and questions as to who was actually responsible."
The magazine also mocked preventive measures taken by Western governments after the attempted attack: "The British government said that if a toner weighs more than 500 grams it won't be allowed on board a plane. Who is the genius who came up with this suggestion? Do you think that we have nothing to send but printers?"
AQAP is largely based in Yemen, where the printer bomb plot was hatched. The group mailed the two printers from Yemen, addressing them to Jewish institutions in Chicago.
Shortly after they were sent, Saudi intelligence was able to learn the tracking numbers and passed the information to U.S. counterparts. The packages were intercepted and disabled in Dubai and England.
The plot itself was not unexpected. The CIA and the White House were aware of 'dry run' attempts in the weeks leading up to the October 29th plot.