October 29th, 2010
10:25 PM ET

Al Qaeda in Yemen behind 'credible terrorist threat' against U.S., Obama says

[cnn-video url=http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2010/10/29/sot.obama.sus.pkgs.cnn]

[Update at 10:25 p.m.] Two suspicious packages found abroad that were bound for Jewish organizations in the United States contained a massive amount of explosive material that would have triggered a powerful blast had the suspected terror plot not been thwarted, a source close to the investigation said Friday.

[Update at 9:55 p.m.] A Yemeni diplomat in Washington says the Yemeni government has opened a full scale investigation into a suspicious device that was shipped from the country to the East Midlands Airport in the United Kingdom.

President Obama's counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, has been in discussions with Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh about how to address the threat, a senior U.S. official said.

Yemen Embassy spokesman Mohammed Albasha in Washington said no UPS or FedEx flights take off or land in Yemen.

"It is way too early to rush to conclusions," Albasha said. "We have had heightened security at our airport(s) and have been working very closely on
security with our regional partners including the U.K. and U.S. since the Christmas incident" involving the accused would-be bomber now known as the "Underwear Bomber." 

Meanwhile, British police sources said the discovery of the suspicious package at East Midlands Airport was the result of an intelligence tip rather than a random check.

[Update 8:54 p.m.] Synagogues across metropolitan Chicago, Illinois, began taking "appropriate precautions" Friday after officials warned them to watch out for suspicious packages from abroad, a Jewish Federation spokeswoman said.

President Obama said two packages that apparently contained explosive materials were bound for two synagogues in Chicago.

While there were "no identifiable or specific threats," an FBI official in Chicago said suspicious packages addressed to U.S. destinations found on cargo planes abroad warranted the precautions.

Read the full story on CNN.com.

[Update 8:20 p.m.] The Emirates flight that was escorted into JFK International Airport this afternoon has been cleared, FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko said. Officials originally flagged flight 201 because there was cargo from Yemen aboard.

Read more on CNN.com.

[Update 8:00 p.m.] A U.S. official said it is likely that the material used in two suspicious packages bound for the United States was PETN - a highly explosive organic compound belonging to the same chemical family as nitroglycerin - but testing continues to reach a definitive conclusion.

PETN was allegedly one of the components of the bomb concealed by Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, who is accused of trying to set off an explosion aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 as it approached Detroit, Michigan, on December 25. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is also believed to be behind that botched attack.

Declining to provide specifics, White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said intelligence officials were specifically looking for such suspicious packages when the first package was found in the United Kingdom.

He later issued a statement thanking Saudi Arabia, saying the United
States is "grateful" for the country's help in identifying the threat.

[Update 7:27 p.m.] Saudi Arabia gave the United States tracking numbers of two packages abroad that apparently contained explosive material, a source with firsthand knowledge of the situation told CNN on Friday.

The packages originated in Yemen, stronghold of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, President Obama said Friday. They were bound for the United States, specifically, "two places of Jewish worship" in Chicago, Illinois, the president said.

One suspicious package, found in the United Kingdom, contained a "manipulated" toner cartridge and had white powder on it as well as wires and a circuit board, a law enforcement source said.

The size and shape of the printed circuit board are typical to a handset cell-phone-type device, said Olivier Clerc, the head of application engineering for a wireless phone parts manufacturer, who provided an analysis of the circuit board shown in a photograph obtained by CNN.

A similar package discovered in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates,
was described as an explosive device with "sophisticated" wiring believed to be a printer, sources said.

[Update 6:29 p.m.] After security sweeps at Philadelphia International Airport, the planes and their cargo have been cleared, according to the Transportation Security Administration. 
 
Earlier, a law enforcement official said all cargo, including six packages from Yemen on two UPS planes would be checked.

[Update 6:19 p.m.] The FBI says the suspicious devices were not brought back to the United States for forensic analysis at the FBI’s facility at Quantico, Virginia, a law enforcement source said.

Authorities in the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates - the two countries where the explosive-laden devices were located - are examining them. The source said FBI agents are at both locations in a “liaison” role at this point.

[Update 6:10 p.m.] In the wake of the discovery of two U.S.-bound packages that apparently contained explosive material, a ground halt on all packages originating from Yemen is being enforced, Sen. Susan Collins, ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, told CNN.

Collins, who had just been briefed by TSA administrator John Pistole, called the discoveries a "very serious attempt to use commercial cargo transportation systems to get explosives into the United States" that "clearly appears to be another attempt of al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula, which unfortunately has established a foothold in Yemen."

Collins said she is concerned about holes in the system to screen cargo coming into the United States. If a credible intelligence source had not warned about the explosives destined for Chicago, it may not have been detected with security screening, she said.

"What I see as a pattern is that al Qaeda is moving away from the spectacular huge attack such as we experienced on 9/11 and instead is trying to create a number of smaller attacks using methods and operatives that are going to be harder for us to detect," said Collins.

[Update 5:25 p.m.] UPS is suspending service out of Yemen until further notice after the discovery of two packages that apparently contained explosive material, the shipping company said Friday.

"UPS is fully cooperating with authorities who are monitoring reports of potentially suspicious packages onboard cargo flights. Authorities are investigating two aircraft in Philadelphia and one in Newark," the company said Friday.

[Update 4:55 p.m.] Suspicious packages found in at least two locations abroad that were bound for the United States "apparently contain explosive material," President Obama said Friday, calling the discovery "a credible threat against our country."

The packages led to increased searches of cargo planes and trucks in several U.S. cities, said law enforcement sources with detailed knowledge of the investigation.

U.S. officials believe that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, commonly referred to as AQAP, is behind the incident.

Obama confirmed that the packages originated in Yemen - the stronghold of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

"We also know that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula continues to plan attacks against our homeland, our citizens, and our friends and allies," he said during a press briefing on the incident.

[Update 4:45 p.m.] The United Arab Emirates' General Authority of Civil Aviation confirms the finding of a suspicious shipment which originated in Yemen and was to be shipped to the United States on an aircraft belonging to the U.S. shipping company, FedEx, the agency said in a statement.

The shipment has been sent to a specialized laboratory for examination to determine its type, said the agency, which is coordinating with civil aviation authorities in the United States and Britain.

"The state of the United Arab Emirates assures that it always implements the highest security standards at its airports to ensure the security and the safety of passengers and cargo shipments and that all of our airports are equipped with the best equipments for screening passengers and cargo before they board the aircrafts," the agency said.

[Update 4:35 p.m.] An initial examination of the two suspicious packages examined abroad indicate they contain explosive material, U.S. President Obama said Friday.

[Update 4:00 p.m.] Emirates Airline has issued a statement regarding the origin of the flight:

"Emirates Flight EK201, which has just landed at JFK, originated in Dubai not in Yemen, as reported in the US media. More information will follow as soon as we have it. Emirates is co-operating fully with the US authorities."

[Update 3:36 p.m.] Emirates flight 201 lands at New York's JFK airport escorted by fighter jets.

Fighter jets escorted Emirates flight 201 to New York's JFK airport.

[Update 3:11 p.m.] NORAD is escorting a passenger flight from the United Arab Emirates to New York's JFK airport “out of an abundance of caution,” a NORAD spokesman said.

Two Canadian CF-18s began to track a civilian aircraft that was “determined to be an aircraft of interest” as it flew over Canadian airspace, spokesman John Cornelio said.

Two US F-15s then picked up the escort to JFK, which is ongoing.

A law enforcement source says that the flight being escorted is Emirates 201.  The flight originated in Sanaa, Yemen, yesterday and is en route from Dubai to JFK, according to Emirates Airline

The FBI and Port Authority Police are scheduled to meet the fight, FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko said.

"This is only because there is cargo from Yemen on the flight.  There is no known threat associated with this cargo or this flight,” he said.

[Update 2:25 p.m.] "Since two of the suspicious packages that were intercepted were addressed to religious institutions in Chicago, all churches, synagogues and mosques in the Chicago area should be vigilant for any unsolicited or unexpected packages, especially those originating from overseas locations," FBI Special Agent Ross Rice said.

[Update 2:18 p.m.] The discovery of a suspicious package at East Midlands Airport in England was the result of an intelligence tip rather than a random check, British police sources said.

Yemen Embassy spokesman Mohammed Albasha in Washington said no UPS or FedEx flights take off or land in Yemen.

"It is way too early to rush to conclusions," Albasha said. "We have had heightened security at our airport(s) and have been working very closely on security with our regional partners including the U.K. and U.S. since the Christmas incident" involving the accused would-be bomber now known as the "Underwear Bomber."

[Update 1:50 p.m.] U.S. officials believe that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was behind the plot that caused a security scare at English and American airports on Friday.

A Yemeni diplomat in Washington says the Yemeni government has opened a full investigation into a suspicious device that was shipped from the country to the East Midlands Airport in the United Kingdom.

Security at American airports has been heightened, the Department of Homeland Security said Friday. Some of the increased security will be visible and passengers should continue to expect a mix of security techniques, the department said.

[Update 1:23 p.m.] President Obama has directed U.S. intelligence, law and Homeland Security agencies to take steps to ensure American safety and determine whether the suspicious package threat is part of terrorist plotting.

Security officials called the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago on Friday to urge the organization to be on alert for suspicious packages, a spokeswoman for the group said.

"We were notified about this earlier this morning," spokeswoman Linda Hasse said. "We are taking appropriate precautions and we are advising local synagogues to do the same."

In the last 24 hours, security officials received a tip from an unnamed ally that packages coming from Yemen were destined for synagogues in Chicago, Illinois, according to information given to CNN contributor Fran Townsend.

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A number of items removed from a cargo plane at East Midlands Airport in central England are being tested, Scotland Yard said Friday.

The UPS flight from Yemen was bound for Chicago, Illinois, via Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It had made a routine stop at East Midlands. Explosives officers also are at the airport, Scotland Yard said, adding it did not believe any locations in the United Kingdom were being targeted.

A spokesman for FedEx says that Friday morning, authorities in the United Arab Emirates confiscated a suspicious package at the Fedex processing facility in Dubai. The package had originated in Yemen.

"We have embargoed all shipments originating from Yemen. The company is cooperating fully with the authorities on this matter," Fedex spokesman Maury Lane said.

[Update 1:20 p.m.] A "number" of suspicious packages have been found in England, a British security source said. All were sent from the same person in Yemen through UPS and had American destinations. The nature of the addresses is described as "extremely sensitive."

[Update 1:14 p.m.] In the last 24 hours, security officials received a tip from an unnamed ally that packages coming from Yemen were destined for synagogues in Chicago, Illinois, according to information given to CNN contributor Fran Townsend.

[Update 1:09 p.m.] Both police and airport officials say that the cordon has been lifted at East Midlands Airport in England, where a suspicious package was found Friday morning. The lifting of the cordon indicates their part of the investigation is over.

The East Midlands Airport also confirmed that the package had been found at a generic distribution centre used by UPS. The spokesperson said that the suspect package was never on a plane.

[Update 12:36 p.m.] Police determined a suspicious package found on a UPS truck at Metro Tech Center, a business center in Brooklyn, did not contain anything harmful, a law enforcement official said.

A package in London, England, that has sparked alarm about cargo arriving into the United States had white powder all over it as well as wires and a circuit card attached, a law-enforcement source said. The package came from Sana, Yemen and was bound for Chicago, Illinois, the source said. Investigators are examining two similar packages - one on a plane in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, and another in East Midlands, in the United Kingdom.

[Update 11:53 a.m.] A suspicious package was found Friday morning at East Midlands Airport in England, authorities said. They did not connect the discovery to the discovery of a suspicious device aboard a plane at London's airport.

[Update 11:38 a.m.] A bomb squad in New York City is responding to a report of a suspected explosive device inside a package aboard a UPS truck in Queens, the deputy police commissioner said Friday. Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne declined to say whether the discovery is connected to the incidents at the Newark and Philadelphia airports.

[Update 11:31 a.m.] Investigators in the United Kingdom found a suspicious device containing a "manipulated" toner cartridge aboard a plane flying from Yemen to Chicago when it stopped in London on Thursday night - one reason for heightened concern at U.S. airports on Friday, a law-enforcement source with detailed knowledge of the investigation said. The device tested negative for explosive material.

[Update 11:18 a.m.] Investigators in the United Kingdom found a bomb disguised as a toner cartridge aboard a plane flying from Yemen to Chicago when it stopped in London on Thursday night - one reason for heightened concern at U.S. airports on Friday, a law-enforcement source with detailed knowledge of the investigation said.

Two UPS cargo planes at Philadelphia International Airport and another at Newark International Airport are being examined for questionable shipments, the company said. One of the planes at Philadelphia came from Paris, the other from Cologne, Germany, UPS said. The plane at Newark also arrived from Cologne.

The company could not confirm the number of crew members on the planes.

[Update 11:12 a.m.] UPS says it is cooperating with authorities at the Philadelphia airport, and the cargo is being removed from its plane.

[Update 10:57 a.m.] The Transportation Security Administration is monitoring reports of potentially suspicious items onboard cargo flights that landed safely at Newark Liberty and Philadelphia International airports. The planes were moved to a remote location where they are being met by law enforcement officials and swept.

Two planes at Philadelphia International Airport are being examined, fire department officials said Friday. One is a UPS plane, officials said, and the other is a commercial plane with no one aboard. Hazardous materials units have arrived at the airport, where three people have been taken from one of the planes. Those people tested negative for hazardous materials, officials said. They would not say what type of material may be involved.

[Original post] The hazardous materials unit of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, fire department is responding to an incident involving two planes at Philadelphia International Airport, Fire Chief Carlton Grimes said.

Two people were evacuated from a plane and are waiting for units to investigate or mitigate the situation. He could not confirm what kind of material is on the plane.

soundoff (313 Responses)
  1. Michael

    I hope that European security services also remain alert, because they want to take us also...

    strength from Brussels!

    October 29, 2010 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JohnD

    Does anyone think this might be a decoy????? Either testing our security?? or maybe causing us to focus are attention to airplane attacks and forget about trains,ships or even our borders???

    October 29, 2010 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • jojo jenkins

      did you ever think they wont attack?

      ohh thats right. the govt said 9 years ago we should expect another large attack.

      where is it? it will never happen from what we call terrorists.

      the USA kills for what it believes in. why can no one else? why can terrorists not be allowed to fight for what they believe?

      i do not support terrorism. but i do support fighting for what you believe is right.

      that is what they do. they are not terrorists. they are enemies of war.

      remember there are NO rules to war. thats what makes it war.

      October 29, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. The Truth

    I say give them what they want. A president that will kick their behinds and feel proud to do so. Not one that is scared of his own shadow and can't put a coherent sentence together without a teleprompter. I need a new sand box or a big kitty litter box. Honestly, I do hope this was a ploy by our Govt. If not we are really in trouble. Close the borders, export humans that are not here to help america great. OR NOT.!!

    October 29, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • jojo jenkins

      you should be the first to go

      October 29, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Michelle Marietta

    I think this is a diversion too, using FedEx was an experiment to see if it would work, and what nation would tip off the United States...this was planned to be foiled or maybe not, it was a research mission. The terrorist are smarter then this...I think Monday 11-1-10 is the day they are planning to attack before the election, just to screw with us and scare voters away. Again the terrorist ar using fear tatics. Be alert and aware, but do not allow them to stop you from voting on Tuesday..... THANK GOD WE HAVE OBAMA!!!!

    October 29, 2010 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • jojo jenkins

      this is nothing more than a false flag. this is to take away more rights.

      please look at the big picture and not just the tiny corner of it.

      October 29, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmmm...,

      What is wrong with 11-11-11?

      October 30, 2010 at 3:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmmm...,

      What is wrong with 12-12-12?

      October 30, 2010 at 4:06 am | Report abuse |
  5. sgt. slaughter

    Those damn MUSLIMS AGAIN???

    WE WILL WIPE THEM OUT AND SEND THEM TO THEIR VIRGINS AND THEIR PIMP MOHAMAD

    October 29, 2010 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  6. sgt. slaughter

    Taking a page from the Colombian drug traffickers......

    Send it in using 15 different methods some get through...some don't..

    Everyone knows how successful the govt. Has been at stopping drugs from coming into the country....

    don't get complacent... Or develop a false sense of security...

    Enough said.....

    October 29, 2010 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. sgt. slaughter

    Terrorists are Taking a page from the Colombian drug traffickers playbook......

    Send it in using 15 different methods some get through...some don't..

    Everyone knows how successful the govt. Has been at stopping drugs from coming into the country....

    don't get complacent... Or develop a false sense of security...

    Enough said.....

    October 29, 2010 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Douglas E Brafford

    The President is, of course, right. A toner cartridge and a printer in Yehman pose a grave threat to our safety and national security.

    And does the timing of this incident have anything to do with the election ? Of course not ! To think otherwise would be to imply that the President, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and the rest of the boys are desperate and are willing to try to scare us to death to stop the onslaught against them. And all of us know they wouldn't stoop to such low tactics. Just as Bill Clinton didn't deploy war planes and threaten to cause a new and final world war by threatening launch missile strikes on Iraq in between phone calls to undecided Republican House members on the night before the impeachment.

    All of which is, of course, the fault of George Bush

    October 29, 2010 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • jojo jenkins

      clinton may have called.

      bush did the deed.

      it is one thing to threaten someone. it is another to follow through.

      clinton threatened. but did not start the war.

      bush started the war.

      see the difference is the president may have the right to launch. but he can not just launch without a reason.

      i am pretty sure iraq knew this as it is known world wide. he can only pull the trigger if there is a threat that can be fulfilled.

      so yes it was bush 100%.

      the war was not started with iraq, or the middle east. it was started to protect us from terrorism.

      hmm sounds like bush not clinton to me.

      October 29, 2010 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Don

    Just a no brainer. A passenger jetliner, isn't it about time we stop sending Mail and Freight on Passenger jetliners, a disaster waiting to HAPPEN, in our new world ! Da? !

    October 29, 2010 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tony Taj

    They try to destroy. I create!

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndJp2L-F5og&w=640&h=360]

    October 29, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. tekbit

    There is No Fool Like an Old Fool..too bad so many Old Fools do not see that whatever happens, it will never be forcasted..like the 5 inches of "Partly Cloudy" I just shoveled.

    October 29, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jojo jenkins

    it is nothing more than the USA trying to take rights away again.

    make an excuse to take away rights for the excuse of it being terrorism.

    it was BS to begin with.

    next will be all packages will need to be scanned before delivery.

    hell they already take nude pics of people at the airports. why not there items too?

    our forefathers are turning in their graves. since 2001 it has all gone downhill. they want us to be like england. with a camera on every corner every street every light every porch every home. until we have no freedom anymore.

    they already made a kill switch for the internet. they made it for security. yet they are hacked every day. they do nothing about it.

    they want something to hang over us. so if we all started looking at things they deem not proper. they will kill the internet.

    have fun when they decide to take away more. but you all are too busy looking at the small picture.

    its all a false flag until they show me 100% proof. containing more than just a passport that somehow didnt burn up and made it from a plane into the rubble. more than a person speaking into a camera in a foreign language and state they are saying something else than they really are.

    if they are such a threat and their own countries are harboring them. then take out the country. there are no innocent followers.

    i was just following orders does not cut it.

    you have a mouth use it. you have a vote use it.

    dont believe everything you hear or see. welcome to the real world.

    i think anyone whom doesnt have a clue of the real world should not have the right to vote.(dem's, repub's, etc) none of them have a real insight into the real world.

    they tried a war to fix the economy. it failed. this is not 1939 anymore.

    heres a good one. everyone write in a name to vote on. i know it is illegal now(yet another right taken away).

    make sure it is a real person. make sure they are not of legal age.

    now demand they take office. demand it so much you are willing to start a civil war over it. then see what happens.

    the economy will grow, they will stop blaming everything on fear(ohh wait i mean terror).

    but thats right. terrorism is all this weapons of mass destruction(wait again they didnt find any), bombings(in their own country to defend), shipping biological weapons(the only ones have been from inside the USA), cutting peoples heads off and sending the videos to the media(well we invaded their country what would you do?), etc.

    i know more terrorist's in the usa than anywhere else. guess what they are white christians. kkk? scientology? police? military?

    but thats right. the middle east are the only terrorist's in the entire world. why? because that is who will fight back!

    i know no one will ever read this and i know for a fact cnn would not let me write a post speaking my views. aside from editing they just wont let me. if they are willing to they have my email address.

    CNN = ONE SIDED

    prove me wrong cnn, prove me wrong

    October 29, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Name*Wizzard

    Pres Obama is great for America. Tell Rove and the Axis of evil that America is not for sale. Dems are America's only working party.They should gain 100 seats.

    October 29, 2010 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Bren

    I cannot understand how, when all this information was known, these planes were allowed to leave for the United
    States. Why were they not held? It frightens me so to think of the risk to the flight crews on these planes!

    October 29, 2010 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. PartisanTool

    I like money

    October 29, 2010 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
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