Suspected Printer Bomber Has Jihadist History

The expert bombmaker once his sent own brother on a gruesome suicide mission.

ByMartha Raddatz and Nasser Atta
November 01, 2010, 4:41 PM

Nov. 1, 2010— -- The man who authorities believe prepared the printer bombs and dispatched the so-called "underwear bomber" on Christmas Day in an attempt to blow up a plane over Detroit, may be a recent entrant in the headlines, but he has had a trail of chilling attempts.

Ibrihim Asiri is a 28-year-old Saudi native, an expert in explosives and chemicals, and a fanatical jihadist.

Just months before allegedly building the explosives that Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab wore on a U.S.-bound flight from Amsterdam, officials say he packed explosives into a body cavity of his own 23-year-old brother Abdullah, sending him on a suicide mission. The target was the head of the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince bin Nayef.

"They believe that such a martyrdom operation will be rewarded in the afterlife," Yemen expert Bruce Riedel, a former CIA official and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told ABC News in an interview today.

"A martyr who killed Prince Muhammad bin Nayef would have been up there in the pantheon of al-Qaeda martyrs," Riedel said.

The younger Asiri posed as a repentant jihadist who had information for Prince bin Nayef, but when he entered the room, he tripped. The bomb exploded prematurely, blowing Asiri to bits -- but sparing the Prince.

Ibrahim Asiri is the son of a former Saudi soldier. The father told a Saudi newspaper his son was radicalized years ago, and fled the county for Yemen. In Yemen, Asiri trained in secret camps, working to perfect his bomb making, and managing to elude capture.

It was Prince bin Nayef -- still the Saudi intelligence chief -- who called U.S. authorities last week to tell them about the latest plot the Saudis had uncovered, providing the Americans with the packages' tracking numbers.

Yemen has been a safe haven and stronghold of al Qaeda since the late 1990s, Riedel told ABC News in an earlier interview this year.

It is a very attractive arena for al Qaeda, because it is one of the most lawless, ungoverned spaces in the entire world, he said. In addition, Osama Bin Laden's family is originally from the southwestern part of Yemen.

To read the full interview with Yemen expert Bruce Riedel, click HERE.

U.S. Boosts Counterterrorism Funding to Yemen in Recent Years

The U.S. has boosted counterterrorism funding for Yemen in recent years, in addition to the annual baseline funding provided by the State Department. This year was the highest amount by far, a total of $155 million. Baseline funds will increase from $72.3 million this year, to a requested $106.6 million for fiscal year 2011. In 2008, it was only $17.2 million.

The counterterrorism funding is known as Section 1026 funding -- named for the section in the law that allows the State Dept. and the Pentagon to provide the funding to the countries they choose. International Security Assistance Force Commander Gen. David Petraeus made the recommendation earlier this year to boost the counterterrorism funding to Yemen when he was in charge of Yemen as CENTCOM Commander, and both the State Dept. and the Pentagon agreed.

Total assistance to Yemen for FY 2010 -- including security, humanitarian, and bilateral aid, was $296 million.

The State Department says that its FY 2011 request for total aid to Yemen will be around the same level.

While the State Dept. is sending two special agents from its Bureau of Diplomatic Security to Yemen to aid in an FBI-led investigation of last week's plot, officials say the U.S. embassy in Sana'a has not altered its security posture or modified staffing as a result of last week's events. No new travel warnings, alerts, or warden messages are planned.

ABC News' Luis Martinez and Kirit Radia contributed to this report.

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