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.

Are you there? Send photos and video to iReport.

Watch WPVI's coverage in Philadelphia.

Watch WABC's coverage in Newark.

READ THE FULL DEVELOPING STORY

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. Otis

    Planes are also being search in London

    October 29, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  2. rl

    Terry, its ppl like you that turn into timothy mcveigh's of this world.

    October 29, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bob

    Let me guess, it was toothpaste?

    October 29, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. tommy potatoes

    This "breaking coverage" is getting boring....

    October 29, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Wolfman

    Scary Terry...

    October 29, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Joe

    The TSA has been lagging with new technology approval for cargo inspection. Implant sciences' quantum sniffer is classified as the best in the breed but yet we are still using sub-standard equipment because of lobbying money.

    October 29, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Rick in L.A.

    Breaking News: This Just IN: An unidentified object was found floating in my toilet this morning. My children were questioned and the HazMat squad was called off.
    Don't you people think this Breaking News stuff should be absolutely, totally confirmed before freaking out millions of people? Can't we just get 6 Hour News instead of 24 Hour Speculation?

    October 29, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • PlayNiceEveryone

      LOL Rick ...Apparently here in the city of the Angels, we've had enough large scale disasters to know not to listen to the first 4 to 6 hours of "Breaking News" because it takes that long just to figure out if there really IS a story in there. How about ONE hour of Facts and Twenty-three hours of comedy, sports, education and entertainment. The pathetic fact in all this is that "crisis fatigue" is an important facet of "national readiness" .... too many "boy crying wolf stories, leave us more vulnerable to the inevitable real wolf that will come along – foreign or domestic".

      October 29, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Larry

    I guess this is the period of 'dead silence' where the authorities are discovering/confirming what exactly we're dealing with, and deciding what the public needs to know without giving the terrorists any useful information. They have to be careful about that because terrorists use any tidbit of info they gleen about an unsuccessful attack to make the next one successful.

    October 29, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Paul

    The device you just showed looks like the internals of a cell phone.

    October 29, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ralf The Dog

      The inside of a cell phone is a good start at making a bomb. It's called remote detonation.

      October 29, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jon

    @Terry-Better to be a sheep than a lemming?
    @ Joe- Go smoke another doob dude
    @ Rick in LA & Larry- Thanks for cohesive posts
    @ The rest of y'all- Read the article and apply common sense
    @ CNN- Shame on you for stirring up crap by calling an unknown device a "bomb"

    October 29, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ralf The Dog

    At Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, They have found white powder on all the chalkboards. They also found a different white powder and razorblades in a Fraternity bathroom. After asking a cheerleader for comment, she said, "Moo!"

    October 29, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. tommy potatoes

    I really like the news speculator's relief when they began to announce that this must just be a "trial run". Maybe we should send a few sorties of B-52's all across Yemen on our own trial run...

    October 29, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Nelson

    I'm looking at all this......and the slow standdown as the security checks being done a being cleared. One report mentioned this may turn out to be a test from the terrorist......so I'm thinking....what if this is a way that the terrorists are using to flush out internal spys, moles, informants, etc.... It's a reasonable theory.

    October 29, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  14. george

    great reporting on the story ; but i really wish they would stop showing that device our children are very smart and dumb at the same time the picture is going to give them ideas....

    October 29, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mike

    oh great, the UK package was heading to Chicago....

    October 29, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ralf The Dog

      Just think of the Pizza!!

      October 29, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13