WASHINGTON — Two suspicious packages were found on U.S.-bound cargo flights from Yemen overnight, the White House said Friday, triggering searches of other cargo flights that had landed in the U.S. and an investigation into whether al-Qaida was behind a new terror plot.
Sources told NBC News that both packages contained toner cartridges with wires and white powder.
Yemen is the home of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the offshoot branch that claimed responsibility for an attempted bombing of a U.S.-bound airliner last Christmas.
Information about the Dubai device was not available, but test results for explosives were negative on the cartridge found in Britain, one law enforcement official said. The UPS cargo flight had been bound for Chicago but was at a British airport during a routine stopover when the cartridge was spotted.
Officials found the suspicious item during basic security screening.
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In Chicago, synagogues were warned to be on alert Friday.
"We were notified this morning that synagogues should be on the alert," Linda Haase, associate vice president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, told Reuters. "We are taking appropriate precautions and are advising local synagogues to do likewise."
TSA issues alert 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."
Fact file: UPS
UPS describes itself as "the world's largest package delivery company." Here are some facts: Founded: 1907 Headquarters: Atlanta Main U.S. air hub:Louisville, Ky. 2009 revenue: $45.3 billion Worldwide employees:408,000 Jet aircraft fleet: 216 in service Other vehicles: 95,244 package cars, vans, tractors, motorcycles. Daily flight segments:1,691 Airports served: 766
In New York, a UPS truck was searched and then cleared in Brooklyn.
Al-Qaida active in Yemen The United States has stepped up its training, intelligence and military aid to Yemen after the failed Christmas Day plot, for which the Yemeni wing of al-Qaida claimed responsibility.
The accused Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, has told U.S. investigators he received the explosive device and training from al-Qaida militants in Yemen.
Yemen has been trying to quell a resurgent branch of al-Qaida, which has stepped up attacks on Western and government targets in the Arabian Peninsula country.
The Associated Press and Reuters, as well as NBC's Pete Williams and Robert Windrem, contributed to this report.