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Top US Military Officer Says Al-Qaida Threat from Yemen is 'Serious'

US Admiral Mike Mullen (file photo)

US Admiral Mike Mullen (file photo)

The top U.S. military officer says al-Qaida's branch in Yemen is a "serious" threat to the United States and has become substantially more dangerous over the past two years.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday he takes seriously al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula's latest threat to carry out more inexpensive, small-scale attacks against American targets.

In the latest edition of its English-language, online magazine, Inspire, released early Sunday, the group said its attempt to bomb two U.S.-bound cargo planes last month cost only $4,200 to mount.

The al-Qaida branch wrote that the operation was intended to disrupt global air cargo systems and reflected a new strategy of low-cost attacks designed to inflict broad economic damage. The group said its main objective is not to maximize civilian casualties, but to threaten the aviation industry, which it described as "vital" for trade and transport between the U.S. and Europe.

In the new issue of Inspire, al-Qaida unveiled what it described as its "strategy of a thousand cuts" that will "bleed the enemy to death."

The magazine gave a detailed account of what it called "Operation Hemorrhage", in which toner cartridges packed with explosives were sent from Yemen's capital, Sana'a, to out-of-date addresses for two synagogues in the midwestern U.S. city of Chicago. The printers containing the cartridges were intercepted in Dubai and Britain.

Inspire listed the cost of the printers at $300 each, with additional expenses coming from two Nokia cell phones at $150 a piece, plus shipping and transportation costs.

The attack failed as a result of a tip from Saudi intelligence, which provided the tracking numbers for the parcels, sent via United Parcel Service and FedEx. But the al-Qaida magazine said the fear, disruption and added security costs caused by the packages made the operation a success.

The group mocked the notion that the plot was a failure, writing that it will "without a doubt it cost America and other Western countries" billions of dollars in new security measures.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.