WASHINGTON – Chicago synagogues were the intended destination of two packages sent from Yemen and filled with explosives intercepted by authorities late Thursday.
US President Barack Obama described the incident as “a credible terrorist threat against our country” on Friday afternoon, and raised the prospect that Al Qaida was behind the attempted terror attack without directly blaming them.
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“Although we are still pursuing all the facts, we do know that the packages originated in Yemen. We also know that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a terrorist group based in Yemen, continues to plan attacks against our homeland, our citizens, and our friends and allies,” said Obama, who himself was due to travel to Chicago Saturday night for a campaign rally.
He declared that the US would “spare no effort in investigating the origins of these suspicious packages and their connection to any additional terrorist plotting.”
The two packages were identified on cargo airplanes, with one found in Dubai and the other at the East Midlands Airport in the United Kingdom, after US national security officials became concerned of a threat emanating from Yemen.
In addition, several other packages on other flights were inspected
Friday, though by later in the day US authorities had found no other
packages containing explosives.
Still, John Brennan, assistant to the president for Homeland Security,
who addressed the press soon after Obama, acknowledged that, “we don't
want to presume that we know the bounds of this plot” and said all
possibilities were being investigated.
He thanked Britain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia for helping disrupt the plot.
Brennan noted that the federal government has been in touch with local
authorities to make sure local institutions have been secured.
"Since two of the suspicious packages that were intercepted were
addressed to religious institutions in Chicago, all churches, synagogues
and mosques in the Chicago area should be vigilant for any unsolicited
or unexpected packages, especially those originating from overseas
locations," FBI Special Agent Ross Rice in the bureau’s Chicago office
told The Jerusalem Post.
Jewish institutions in the Chicago area heightened security after being informed of the situation.
Michael Kotzin, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of
Metropolitan Chicago said he was in touch with Jewish institutions
throughout the city to make sure they were aware of the situation and
were taking the necessary steps.
“We’re taking the appropriate precautions,” he said. “It’s good that we know what to do and now we’re going to do it.”
“These warnings and apparent threats against Jewish institutions comes
as no surprise,” said William Daroff, who heads the Washington office of
the Jewish Federations of North America, pointing to the many times
Jews and Jewish institutions have been targeted in the wake of 9-11.
Daroff said the federal government is well aware of the threats and has
provide substantial assistance to protect the Jewish community.
Of the $99 million allocated by the Department of Homeland Security
since 2005, he said, “The vast majority, unfortunately due to the high
threat level, has flowed into Jewish institutions to enhance their