Oct 29, 2010

MSNBC.com: "Suspicious devices on cargo jets trigger terror alert" White House cites possible threat; Chicago synagogue, Jewish center were intended recipients, source says

MSNBC.com: "Suspicious devices on cargo jets trigger terror alert"
White House cites possible threat; Chicago synagogue, Jewish center were intended recipients, source says

NBC News and news services
updated 3 minutes ago
BREAKING NEWS

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.

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"The president was notified of a potential terrorist threat on Thursday night at 10:30," the White House said in a statement.

Homeland Security said in a statement it was taking new measures, "including heightened cargo screening and additional security at airports."

The devices were found aboard U.S.-bound cargo planes in Britain and Dubai.

A law enforcement official told NBC that the two packages were addressed to a synagogue and a Jewish community center in Chicago.

One U.S. official said authorities are investigating whether the incident was a dry run for a plot to send bombs through the mail delivery system.

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

"Out of an abundance of caution the planes were moved to a remote location where they are being met by law enforcement officials and swept," TSA added.

Two jets in Philadelphia belonging to UPS were searched. A federal law enforcement official told the AP that nothing suspicious was found.

The flight that landed at Newark, N.J., also was a UPS cargo jet. After the jet was searched, officials gave the all clear.

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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.

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Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Rabbis for Women of the Wall  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
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