Ref: UK Home Secretary Theresa May has confirmed that a device found in a package sent from Yemen and found on a US-bound cargo plane could have exploded on board the jet.
The device, intercepted at East Midlands Airport, was viable and could have exploded on board, she said.Dubai police earlier confirmed that a second device, also on a US-bound cargo plane, contained explosive.
Washington suspects the devices were part of an al-Qaeda plot.They were both inside packages addressed to synagogues in the Chicago area. President Barack Obama described them as “a credible terrorist threat”.
The device found in a package in Dubai contained pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) – the same explosive used in a failed plot to bomb a plane flying to Detroit last December.
The packages were found on UPS and FedEx cargo planes, triggering alerts in the US, UK and Middle East. Other planes at US airports were checked because they were thought to contain items from Yemen.
Yemeni police are reportedly examining 26 other suspect parcels.
Mrs May was speaking after a meeting of the UK’s emergency committee, Cobra.”The target may have been an aircraft and, had it detonated, the aircraft could have been brought down,” she said.
“We do not believe that the perpetrators of the attack would have known the location of the device when it was planned to explode,” she added.
According to Dubai police, the explosives were inside the toner cartridge of a printer, placed in a cardboard box containing English-language books and souvenirs.
The cartridge contained PETN and plastic explosives mixed with lead azide, they said. Lead azide is an explosive commonly used in detonators.
“The device was prepared in a professional manner and equipped with an electrical circuit linked to a mobile telephone [Sim] card concealed in the printer,” the police said.
US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she suspected al-Qaeda involvement.”I think we would agree with that, that it does contain all the hallmarks of al-Qaeda and in particular al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” she told ABC News, referring to a militant group based in Yemen.
Witnesses in the Yemeni capital Sanaa say a security crackdown has begun there, reports BBC Middle East correspondent Jon Leyne in Cairo.
Security forces are searching vehicles and carrying out identity checks, he says.
A source close to the investigation in Sanaa told AFP that 26 suspect parcels had been seized and were being examined.
Speaking at a White House press conference late on Friday, President Obama said new aviation security measures were being taken “including additional screening”.The White House said Saudi Arabia had provided information that helped identify the threat, while the UK’s Daily Telegraph reported that an MI6 officer responsible for Yemen had received a tip-off.
FedEx and UPS suspended all their shipments out of Yemen, saying they would fully co-operate with investigators.
US security services remain on a high level of vigilance in the wake of the attempted Times Square bombing in New York in May and the attempted Christmas Day attack.