NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 11/1/2010 8:34:29 AM ET 2010-11-01T12:34:29

An airline chief claimed Monday that passengers could be subjected to "ludicrous" new security measures following the Yemen mail bomb plot, making air travel "even more uncomfortable and tedious."

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Michael O'Leary, chief executive officer of Ryanair, Europe's third largest airline by passenger numbers, told BBC Radio 4 that current aviation security was "totally ineffective" despite being "over the top."

"What happens, particularly in the coverage of the Yemeni issues of recent days, is that we have another huge lurch by the securicrats into making travel even more uncomfortable and an even more tedious ordeal for the travelling public," he told the U.K. radio station.

"Sadly they always win the day and they lurch around with ludicrous new measures," he added. "Lord only knows what we'll have now. We will be confiscating white powder at the airports. Talcum powder will probably now be put on a list of banned weapons at airport security."

His comments come a week after British Airways chairman Martain Broughton called for aviation security to be relaxed, the U.K. Press Association reported.

British Home Secretary Theresa May said the bomb discovered on the plane that landed in England was powerful enough to bring down the aircraft.

Bomb nearly missed

A U.S. official and a British security consultant said the device, hidden in a printer cartridge, was sophisticated enough that it nearly slipped past British investigators even after they were tipped off.

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Meanwhile, the hunt for the people behind the two parcel bombs, which were addressed to synagogues in Chicago but intercepted on board cargo flights in Dubai and the U.K., was continuing.

At Yemen's Sanaa University on Monday, a rally was held in support of Hanan al-Samawi, who was arrested but later released by Yemeni authorities in connection with the plot. A government official said another woman had used her name and identity when sending one of the packages.

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Al-Samawi, a student, and her father drove in and around the campus to the chants and cheers of about 3,000 to 4,000 people for about an hour, NBC News says.

The chief suspect, according to U.S. intelligence officials, is Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, who is believed to be a member of the leadership of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

He is also suspected of sending his own brother on a suicide mission against a top Saudi official.

Al-Asiri and his brother abruptly left their Mecca home three years ago, their father, a four-decade veteran of the Saudi military, said. Aside from a brief phone call to say they had left the country, he never heard from them again.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Officials: Passenger jets may have been bomb targets

  1. Transcript of: Officials: Passenger jets may have been bomb targets

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: Authorities in Britain and the United States are saying tonight that it appears those explosive packages intercepted overseas Friday on their way to the United States were meant to go off aboard airplanes, and we've now learned that at least one of the bombs made part of its journey aboard a passenger jet . All weekend investigators have been rapidly unfolding details of the plot, which now appears much more serious than first thought. Meantime, the search goes on for whoever was behind it, and our justice correspondent Pete Williams joins us with now with the latest developments.

    Pete: Lester , police from three countries are now analyzing what was in these packages . Officials say both contain nearly a pound of a powerful high explosive stuffed inside this exact type of toner cartridge for a desktop laser printer . US officials say the bombs were fully operational and cleverly designed to get through cargo screening undetected. The toner cartridges were inserted in laser printers. At least one of the boxes carrying them was filled with clothes and books to look like a routine shipment. But inside the cartridges was nearly a pound of a powerful powdered explosive, enough, authorities say, to bring down a plane. Both devices included parts from cell phones, which some investigators believe functioned as timers. Both British and American officials say they suspect the bombs were intended to explode aboard passenger aircraft , though they say the terrorists would have no way of knowing exactly where the bombs were when the packages were meant to explode or what kind of planes would carry them.

    PETE WILLIAMS reporting: I don't know exactly the extent of their knowledge of how these cargo packages are moved and whether or not they're on cargo aircraft or passenger aircraft . We just know there was an intention to try to carry out some type of attack with these IEDs that were going to be trans-shipped on aircraft to the United States .

    Mr. JOHN BRENNAN (Deputy National Security Advisor): Qatar Airlines said today that its passenger jets did carry one of the boxes from Yemen to the United Arab Emirates , where it was stopped. The other, which went through Germany and was intercepted in England , was carried on cargo planes . They were addressed to two locations in Chicago used by synagogues, but with fictitious names on the labels. Some investigators say it's possible the packages were meant to get all the way there before exploding. Jewish leaders took the apparent threat in stride.

    WILLIAMS: I don't expect any changes in our -- in our schedule, in our activities. I think it would be a mistake to make changes, really. That would be a kind of giving in, anyway.

    Rabbi LARRY EDWARDS (Congregation or Chadash): In Yemen , police arrested a 22-year-old computer science student who lived in this house and whose phone number was given when the packages were sent. But she was released today, and officials say they now believe her name was used by someone else. The US Homeland Security Department is sending experts to Yemen to monitor cargo security there, but both Federal Express and UPS have stopped accepting any packages from Yemen , and so has the US Postal Service . US authorities strongly suspect this is the work of an al-Qaeda bombmaker in Yemen who was thought to have built the underwear bomb on that flight to Detroit last Christmas Day . But so far they say there's no indication that

    WILLIAMS: Pete Williams tonight in Washington . Thank you.

    anyone in the US was involved. Lester:


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