The Daily Mail, London on Saturday revealed how Al Qaeda activists from Yemen sent two printer cartridges packed with PETN explosives to blow up Jewish synagogues in the United States.
All cargo planes on both sides of the Atlantic were checked after a major terror alert was sparked off. An explosive package was found at a UK airport in East Midlands.
President Obama warned of a ‘credible terrorist threat' after the package, a modified printer cartridge, was discovered at East Midlands Airport.
Speaking in the White House last night, Obama said: 'I want to briefly update the American people on a credible terrorist threat against our country and the action that we have taken with our partners to respond to it.
'Last night and earlier today our intelligence and law enforcement professionals working with our friends and allies identified two suspicious packages bound for the US - specifically, two places of Jewish worship in Chicago.
'Those packages have been located in Dubai and East Midlands Airport in the UK.
'Initial examination of those packages has determined that they do apparently contain explosive material.'
He added: 'I've...directed that we spare no effort in investigating the origins of these suspicious packages and their connection to any additional terrorist plotting.
'Although we are still pursuing all the facts, we do know that the packages originated in Yemen.
'We also know that al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, a terrorist group based in Yemen, continues to plan attacks against our homeland, our citizens, and our friends and allies.'
The package had been carried on a plane from Yemen. A similar device was found in Dubai. Both contained ‘explosive material' and were discovered on cargo planes that had stopped en route from Yemen to Chicago.'
The packages, thought to have been the work of Al Qaeda, were addressed to synagogues in the American city.
The one found in Britain was intercepted by MI6 after a tip-off to one of its sources in the Arabian country, it was reported last night. Security services were placed on high alert.
The first package was found in the early hours yesterday. It had arrived on a United Parcel Service (UPS) flight which stopped at East Midlands Airport, on the Derbyshire and Leicestershire border.
It was taken off the plane and placed in a UPS storage depot just 300ft from the runway and half a mile from the passenger terminal, which is used by five million a year.
From there, it would have been transferred on to a cargo plane bound for Chicago.
But before this could happen, it aroused suspicion during routine checks. The package was tested in a remote sealed-off area of the airport after wires and white powder were seen to be coming from it.
Initial examinations suggested it might not have detonated, but last night it was sent together with other items from the plane to Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist detectives for further forensic tests.
It was also reported that the device was linked to a mobile phone.
U.S. officials said they believe the packages contain pentaerythritol trinitrate, or PETN – the same powerful explosive used in last year's failed Christmas Day Detroit airliner attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was trained in Yemen.
This is the same explosive as used by shoe bomber Richard Reid in his failed attack in 2001.
One of the most potent explosives known to man, just 100g of PETN can destroy a car.
However, it is extremely difficult to detect – making it an ideal weapon for terrorists.
But other sources said the packages may have been dummies adapted to look like real bombs in a ‘dry run' as preparation for a real plot.
Hours after the discovery at East Midlands, two UPS planes at Philadelphia airport were moved to a secure area and checked, while searches were also carried out on an aircraft arriving from the UK in Newark, New Jersey.
Further checks were reported on planes that carried cargo originating in Yemen and that were arriving from Europe in Portland, Maine, and at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
In Brooklyn, New York, police were examining a package from a UPS truck after reports that a possible explosive had been found.
Two fighter jets later escorted an airliner travelling into New York from Dubai.
UPS said it was immediately suspending service out of Yemen until further notice 'because security is of the utmost importance'.
Earlier this year, the US and Britain temporarily closed embassies in the Yemeni capital over fears of a terrorist attack.
A Yemen-based offshoot of al Qaeda was suspected of being behind the alleged Christmas Day bomb attempt on a jet flying to Detroit.
Home Secretary Theresa May confirmed the package at East Midlands did contain explosive material, but said it was not yet clear whether it was a 'viable explosive device'.
Forensic experts are still examining the find.
May said Cobra, the UK government's emergency planning committee, met yesterday following the discovery and would meet again later today.
All direct flights from Yemen to the UK had been suspended, she added.
May said: 'The package which originated in Yemen was removed for forensic examination by UK experts. That examination continues.
'At this stage I can say that the device did contain explosive material. But it is not yet clear that it was a viable explosive device. The forensic work continues.' She added: 'We are reviewing the security measures for air freight from Yemen and are in discussion with industry contacts.' The Yemeni government expressed astonishment last night at reports linking it to the two explosive packages.
In a statement distributed to journalists and appearing on the official website, the government said there were no UPS cargo planes that had taken off from Yemen, or any indirect or direct flights to British or American airports.
The statement added that the government was co-operating with the US, British and Emirati parties.
Yemen's statement warned against 'rush decisions in a case as sensitive as this one and before investigations reveal the truth'.
TIMELINE OF FED-EX BOMB CRISIS:
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 28:
Late - MI6 officer responsible for Yemen reportedly receives tip-off from a local source of a possible al Qaida plot to smuggle bombs to America on cargo aircraft.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 29
- Early hours. Suspicious package discovered at East Midlands Airport on a UPS plane, which was from Yemen and bound for Chicago in the US. The device is later said to have been a printer toner cartridge with wires and powder, addressed to a synagogue in Chicago. Police evacuate the centre and set up a security cordon around the airport.
- 10am Police stand down cordon. Suspicious FedEx package also apparently containing a printer cartridge found on plane in Dubai, which was flying from Yemen to Chicago.
- 2pm Police reimpose security cordon at East Midlands. The move reportedly follows discovery of another suspicious device linked to a mobile phone. It is sent for detailed examination.
- After 4pm First reports emerge in UK of terror alert involving suspicious packages on cargo flights.
- 5.35pm Security cordon at East Midlands Airport lifted.
- 5.56pm FBI says two suspicious packages were addressed to religious buildings in Chicago.
- 6.55pm It emerges US military jets are escorting an Emirates flight through US airspace which is carrying a package from Yemen.
- 7.35pm Emirates flight 201 from Yemen via Dubai lands at JFK airport, New York.
- 7.45pm A suspicious FedEx package that was sent from Yemen has been confiscated in Dubai, a company spokeswoman confirms. FedEx says it has stopped all shipments from Dubai in light of the investigation into the package, and say they are liaising with the FBI. Two other FedEx flights are investigated after landing in Philadelphia and Newark, New Jersey. Both are given the all clear.
- 7.53pm Emirates airline says it is co-operating with the US authorities in the investigation of the package from Yemen on flight 201.
- 7.55pm All direct flights from Yemen to the UK are suspended, Home Secretary Theresa May says.
- 8.35pm John Brennan, assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for homeland security and counter-terrorism, says the packages have been isolated and "made inert".
- 9.20pm President Barack Obama makes a White House address. He announces the existence of a 'credible terrorist threat' and says two packages found in Dubai and East Midlands Airport 'apparently contain explosive material'. Mr Obama says the packages originated in Yemen and that the Yemen-based terror group al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is planning attacks against the US and its allies.
- 9.55pm The explosive material is reported to be PETN, or pentaerythritol tetranitrate, a very powerful explosive. It is the same as the material used in last year's Christmas Day attempted bomb plot on a jet at Detroit airport.
- 10.57pm The Yemeni government says in a statement it is co-operating with the US, British and Emirati authorities.
- 23.58pm Theresa May confirms the suspect package found at East Midlands did contain explosive material, 'but it is not yet clear that it was a viable explosive device. The forensic work continues'.