Friday, October 29, 2010

Authorities Investigating Suspicious Packages In US and UK; UPDATE: President Obama: Threat Credible

Investigators are looking at suspicious package incidents aboard two UPS planes in Philadelphia.
A crew member arriving on a UPS flight from Paris notified authorities of a suspicious package on board describing a potential radiological component, a local CBS affiliate reported.

Philadelphia police and firefighters greeted the inbound flight shortly after 9 a.m. and the two occupants exited the aircraft, the station reported.

A second UPS flight, which was due to take off from Philadelphia, was also isolated in the investigation, local station WPVI reported.

Department of Homeland Security is investigating the incident with help from local police and the FBI, a source at the airport said.
Another plane was cordoned off at Newark Liberty Airport.

Separately, a suspicious package incident was reporter at the East Midlands Airport in the UK. That package was discovered in the DHL processing facility at the airport and after an initial all-clear, the security cordons were reinstated.

CNN is saying that the toner cartridge was "manipulated".
Airports in some of the United States were on high alert Friday after investigators found a suspicious package aboard a plane flying from Yemen to Chicago when it stopped in London on Thursday night, a law enforcement source with detailed knowledge of the investigation said.

The suspicious package, which contained a "manipulated" toner cartridge, tested negative for explosive material, the source said, but it led to heightened inspection of arriving cargo flights in at least three cities -- Newark, New Jersey and Philadelphia, Pennyslvania and a UPS truck in New York.

Investigators were examining two UPS planes that landed at Philadelphia International Airport and another at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey, said Mike Mangot, a UPS spokesman.

Authorities are focusing on flights coming from Yemen into the United States, according to the source.
The UK incident at East Midlands airport is linked with the alerts and suspicious packages investigations in the US. A suspicious package was discovered during a routine search of cargo on a flight from Yemen bound for Chicago with a layover at East Midlands airport. That got law enforcement in the US checking cargo from flights inbound from Yemen:
A security official told WNBC of New York that numerous suspicious packages had been sent from Yemen and that at least two are thought to have gotten into the U.S.

Moreover, CNN reported that a U.S. ally had warned of a possible threat from Yemen and that some intelligence officials believe al-Qaida might be behind a plot to send explosive devices into the U.S. via Yemen.

The Transportation Security Administration earlier said that cargo flights that landed safely at Newark and Philadelphia airports were being searched after "reports of potentially suspicious items onboard."
One of the Newark airport planes was cleared after the suspicious package turned out to be reams of paper. Investigations continue at Philadelphia and in New York City where a UPS truck was being searched in connection with this larger probe.

CNN reports that President Obama has ordered heightened security and synagogues in the Chicago area were warned to watch for suspicious packages:
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.
The investigation also led to the shutdown of the Manhattan Bridge after investigators traced one package to MetroTech Center near the foot of the bridge in Brooklyn. That package turned out to be paper receipts and the bridge was reopened to traffic a short time later.

F-16s are escorting Emirates Air Flt 201 (EK 201) into JFK Airport.
The military escort is a "precaution." Two F-16s are following the flight in to JFK, and have been since the Emirates flight entered U.S. airspace.

Emirates flight 201 is being escorted into JFK airport by U.S. fighter jets, according to CNBC.

The flight is expected to land at 3:30 PM ET. It emanates from Dubai.
The flight can be tracked here. With escort I figure they'll be giving it a priority landing assignment and direct approach to JFK's longest runway (Bay runway/13R-31L) at which point they'll move it off to a secure location.

President Obama, in the course of his press briefing, announced that two suspicious devices did test positive for explosives - one at the East Midlands airport and the other in Dubai. The packages all originated in Yemen, and al Qaeda was apparently behind the incidents. The threat was credible.

More details:
Intelligence officials have been monitoring the suspected plot for days, an official said. The packages were discovered in England and Dubai late Thursday after a foreign intelligence service picked up information related to Yemen and passed it on to the U.S., one official said.

An official United Arab Emirates security source said the package discovered there was a device containing explosive materials.

No explosives have been found in the U.S. Items continued to be tested in England.

U.S. national security officials alerted President Barack Obama to a "potential terrorist threat," the White House said. Obama planned a public statement on the developments later today.

The two packages were addressed to Chicago religious sites, Chicago FBI spokesman Ross Rice said. Both were sent from the same address in Yemen to Jewish organizations in Chicago, U.S. officials said. Other than Rice, all the officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.
It appears that several decoy devices may have been mailed out in addition to the actual devices that were intercepted by the authorities in Dubai and UK.

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