One of al-Qaeda's master bombmakers may have been killed in Yemen last year, according to a UN report. If Ibrahim al-Asiri—who was believed to have been involved in an unsuccessful 2009 plot to blow up an aircraft over Detroit on Christmas Day with an underwear bomb—is dead, it would "represent a serious blow to operational capability" for al-Qaeda, the UN says. The report does not detail how al-Asiri may have died. Government officials in the US are now looking into evidence that the Saudi-born terrorist is, in fact, dead, CNN reports. But some analysts say that reports of al-Asiri's death should be received with skepticism because al-Qaeda has yet to acknowledge it.
One former British spy tells CNN that "it would be extremely out of the ordinary" for al-Qaeda not to release a eulogy for such a senior leader. In addition to the Christmas Day plot that failed due to a malfunction, al-Asiri, born in 1982, is believed to have built a bomb used in a 2009 attempt to assassinate a Saudi official (the bomber, al-Asiri's brother, was killed in the attempt), according to a 2014 BBC profile. In 2010, al-Asiri built bombs disguised as printer cartridges that were intended to be shipped to Chicago, the Washington Post reported in 2012. This plot was foiled thanks to a tip from Saudi intelligence. "Asiri is an evil genius," a lawmaker told the Post at the time. (Read more terrorism stories.)