Custom Search

Friday, October 29, 2010

Chicago Jewish Center Target Of Al-Qaeda Terror Plot

Chicago Synagogues On Alert After Suspicious Devices Found On Planes

Cargo planes and trucks in several U.S. cities were inspected Friday after investigators found suspicious packages in at least two locations abroad, said law enforcement sources with detailed knowledge of the investigation.

U.S. officials believe that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, commonly referred to as AQAP, is behind the incident.

One suspicious package, found in the United Kingdom, contained a "manipulated" toner cartridge but tested negative for explosive material, the source said. It led to heightened inspection of arriving cargo flights in Newark, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and a UPS truck in New York.

The package had white powder on it as well as wires and a circuit board, a law enforcement source said; someone shipped it from Sanaa, Yemen, with a final destination of Chicago, Illinois. A similar package has been discovered in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, the source said.

Authorities were looking for about 13 other packages shipped from Yemen, a law enforcement source said. Some of them have been found and an investigation of those has not indicated they are a threat, the source said.

There is no specific intelligence indicating the other packages are a threat or that they are in the United States, the source said, but authorities want to check them as a precaution.

A Yemeni diplomat in Washington said his government has opened a full-scale investigation into the incident but it was too early to speculate or reach any conclusions.

Investigators were looking for a "possible nexus to terrorism," a U.S. official said.

"We are taking this very seriously," the official said.

The plot could be a dry run to test Western security, another official told CNN.

The Department of Homeland Security said it "had taken a number of steps to enhance security," including "heightened cargo screening and additional security at airports."

"Passengers should continue to expect an unpredictable mix of security layers that include explosives trace detection, advanced imaging technology, canine teams and pat downs, among others," DHS said in a statement. "As always, we remind the public to remain vigilant and report suspicious activity to local law enforcement."

Some Jewish religious leaders in Chicago were alerted Friday, said Linda Haase, spokeswoman for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

"We were notified about this earlier this morning," she said. "We are taking appropriate precautions and we are advising local synagogues to do the same."

Lucille Price, a receptionist at Anshe Emet Synagogue, said Chicago police made them aware of the reports and asked them to keep an eye out for suspicious packages among any deliveries that arrived Friday.

But congregation leaders at two prominent Chicago synagogues, Temple Sholom and Chicago Sinai Congregation, told CNN they were not made aware of any attempts to ship bombs or hazardous material to them.

In the United Kingdom, police were investigating the suspicious package at a freight distribution center at East Midlands Airport, about 100 miles north of London, said airport spokesman Russell Craig. U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May said the package, which originated in Yemen and was addressed to a U.S. destination, was discovered during a search of a cargo flight. The package is being examined, she said.

May sought to assure Britons that "safety and security of the U.K." is her top priority.

"We are urgently considering what steps need to be put in place regarding security of freight originating from Yemen," she said. "For security reasons there are currently no direct flights from Yemen to the U.K."

She added that "at this stage there is nothing to suggest that any location in the U.K. was being targeted."

Meanwhile, U.S. authorities seemed most focused on inspecting cargo planes.

Investigators examined two UPS planes that landed at Philadelphia International Airport and another at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, said Mike Mangeot, a UPS spokesman. Authorities later gave the "all-clear" at the airport in Newark, U.S. and U.K. officials said.

Authorities are focusing on flights coming from Yemen into the United States, according to the source.

In Philadelphia, six packages from Yemen were found aboard the two UPS planes that were sitting on the tarmac, said a law

enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation. Though there was no specific threat related to the two planes, U.S. authorities said they decided to check the cargo to be extra cautious, the source said.

All cargo on the planes was to be inspected, even packages that did not originate in Yemen, a process that will take several hours, the source said

Hazardous material teams were using mobile equipment to check for biological, radioactive and chemical material as well as explosives, the source said.

One plane was parked in a remote area of the airport, by Gate 11. The other was near the UPS terminal, which is far from the passenger terminal.

The Transportation and Security Administration said authorities acted "out of an abundance of caution."

UPS said it is cooperating with authorities, and its shipment is being removed from the aircraft.

In Newark, investigators examined another UPS plane, Mangeot said. Police determined that there was no threat.

In New York, the bomb squad responded to a report of a suspected explosive device inside a package aboard a UPS truck, said deputy police commissioner Paul Browne. Police later concluded that the truck at the Metro Tech Center facility contained nothing harmful.

Explosive Devices On cargo Jets Trigger Terror Alert

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. An official in Dubai, where one cartridge was found, said it was an "explosive device."

"The president was notified of a potential terrorist threat on Thursday night at 10:30," the White House said in a statement. President Barack Obama was to make a statement at 4:15 p.m. ET, and will carry it live.

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.

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.

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."

"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.

In New York, an Emirates commercial flight arrived from Dubai around 3:30 p.m. ET and was also being searched as a precaution.

The flight is carrying one of some 15 packages from Yemen that the U.S. wants to inspect, WNBC said.

"This is only because there is cargo from Yemen on the flight," said FBI spokesman Richard Kolko. "There is no known threat associated with this cargo or this flight."

Earlier Friday, 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.

View Larger Map

Sources: ABC News, CNN, MSNBC,, Google Maps

No comments: