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Mail Bomb Defused 17 Minutes Before Set to Explode

One of two mail bombs sent from Yemen last week was disarmed just 17 minutes before it was set to go off, the French interior minister said Thursday, but American and British officials said they had no information that would confirm that.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the question of when the bombs found in Britain and the United Arab Emirates were to go off was still under investigation and there was no information confirming such a close call. U.S. investigators also said they were unable to confirm the French report.

A senior U.S. official told Fox News on Thursday that both bombs contained cell phone detonators that were timed to the alarm function. The official said that the bombs were constructed to have the alarm trigger power from a battery that would in turn heat lead azide -- a chemical initiator -- in a syringe. Once hot, the lead would then cause PETN explosives -- packed into each printer cartridge -- to detonate.

The official said the syringe was the same style of detonator that master bomb maker Ibrahim al-Asiri used in the failed bombing last Christmas of a Detroit-bound airliner.

"Al-Asiri has been working with PETN for a long time and in this latest venture, he is showing how creative he has become," the official said.

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