Chicago synagogues were apparently the destination of two packages filled with
explosives- laden bombs sent from Yemen and intercepted early Friday morning by
authorities in Dubai and England.
US President Barack Obama on Friday
afternoon described the incident targeting “Jewish places of worship” as “a
credible terrorist threat against our country,” and raised the prospect that
al-Qaida was behind the attempted terrorist attack without directly blaming the
Obama: 'Terrorist threat' on Jewish targets thwarted
US Jewish groups told to be on high alert after terror plot
“Although we are still pursuing all the facts, we do know
that the packages originated in Yemen. We also know that al- Qaida 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
was due to travel to Chicago on Saturday night for a campaign rally.
declared that the US would “spare no effort in investigating the origins of
these suspicious packages and their connection to any additional terrorist
The two packages were identified on cargo airplanes, with one
found in Dubai and the other at the East Midlands Airport in North West
Leicestershire, England, after US national security officials became concerned
about a threat emanating from Yemen.
Obama on Saturday called British
Prime Minister David Cameron and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah to discuss the
thwarted attacks, saying that the terrorist efforts “underscore the necessity of
remaining vigilant against terrorism.” The president received a briefing from
his national security adviser, John Brennan, before campaigning in three states
ahead of Tuesday’s elections.
“The forensic analysis is under way,”
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“Clearly from the initial observation, the initial analysis
that was done, the materials that were found in the device that was uncovered
[were] intended to do harm.”
While Obama didn’t specifically accuse
Yemen’s al-Qaida branch, Brennan called it the most active al-Qaida franchise
and said anyone associated with the group was a subject of concern.
would include the radical US-born Muslim cleric Anwar al- Awlaki, who now is in
hiding in Yemen. He has been linked in the attempted Christmas bombing plot to
blow up an airliner over Detroit and has inspired other terrorists with his
violent message. Also hiding in Yemen is Samir Khan, an American who declared
himself a traitor and helps produce al-Qaida propaganda.
acknowledged that “we don’t want to presume that we know the bounds of this
plot” and that all possibilities were being investigated.
Britain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia for helping disrupt the plot.
noted that the federal government has been in touch with US local authorities to
make sure local institutions have been secured.
arrested a woman Saturday and searched for other suspects linked to al- Qaida’s
Persian Gulf faction in the plot.
Officials said the woman was detained
as part of a widening search for people believed to have used forged documents
and ID cards in the plot thwarted Friday.
The dragnet in Yemen and the
results of a preliminary investigation into one of the bombs in Britain
reflected the seriousness of a plot that investigators said bore all the
hallmarks of al-Qaida.
Yemeni officials said the suspects were believed
linked to al-Qaida in the Arab Peninsula, the group’s affiliate in the Persian
Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, told reporters that the US
and the United Arab Emirates had provided information that helped identify the
woman as a suspect.
Two security officials told The Associated Press the
woman was arrested in the al-Rawdah district near the airport in San’a, Yemen’s
“According to our information, a woman has sent the packages
through the agents [companies],” Saleh said in his briefing.
One of the
Yemeni officials, a member of the country’s anti-terrorism unit and close to the
Yemeni team probing the case, said the other suspects had been tied to
al-Qaida’s faction in Yemen.
Several US officials said they increasingly
are confident of the involvement of al-Qaida’s Yemen branch, the group behind
the failed Detroit airliner bombing last Christmas. A Nigerian-born passenger
tried to set off a bomb packed with PETN, an industrial explosive that was the
same potent ingredient used in the mail bombs found Friday. But the suspect’s
underwear detonator failed to operate properly.
US officials said
al-Qaida’s explosives expert in Yemen, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, was the likely
suspect behind the bombmaking.
Asiri helped make the bomb used in the
Christmas attack and another PETN device used in a failed suicide attack against
the top Saudi counterterrorism official last year, officials said.
Special Agent Ross Rice in the bureau’s Chicago office told The Jerusalem Post
that “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.”
institutions in the Chicago area heightened security after being informed of the
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
“These warnings and apparent threats against Jewish institutions
come 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.
the federal government is well aware of the threats and has provided substantial
assistance to protect the Jewish community.
Of the $99 million allocated
by the Department of Homeland Security since 2005, “the vast majority,
unfortunately due to the high threat level, has flowed into Jewish institutions
to enhance their physical security,” he said.
The plot sent tremors
throughout the US, where after a frenzied day searching planes and parcel trucks
for other explosives, officials temporarily banned all new cargo from
Yemeni authorities are checking dozens more packages in the search
for the terrorists who sent the bombs.
A Yemeni security official said
investigators there were examining 24 other suspect packages in
Authorities were questioning cargo workers at the airport as well
as employees of the local shipping companies contracted to work with FedEx and
UPS, the official said.
A preliminary investigation in the UK found that
the mail bomb found inside the cargo plane could have exploded, British Home
Secretary Theresa May said on Saturday.
May said the plane carrying the
package from Yemen may have been the target, and if the bomb had detonated, the
explosion could have brought down the aircraft.
“But we do not believe
that the perpetrators of the attack would have known the location of the device
when they planned for it to explode,” May said.
“At this stage we have no
information to indicate another terrorist attack is imminent.”
where one of the two bombs was found in a FedEx shipment from Yemen, police said
it contained a powerful explosive and bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida.
white powder explosives were discovered in the ink cartridge of a computer
printer, said a police statement carried by the official state news agency
The device was rigged to an electric circuit, and a mobile phone
chip was hidden inside the printer, the statement said.
The police said
the bomb was prepared in a “professional manner.”
Yemen promised to
investigate the plot.
The US has FBI, military and intelligence officers
stationed in the country to conduct an inquiry.
There are only a handful
of international shipping locations in the impoverished Arab nation, but US
officials worried that record keeping would be sparse and investigators would
have to rely more on intelligence sources to identify the would-be
In San’a, there was no visible security presence on Saturday at
the UPS and FedEx offices, which are located on the same street.
employee at the UPS office said they had been instructed not to receive any
packages for delivery for the time being.
No explosives were found on an
Emirates Airlines passenger jet that was escorted down the coast to New York by
US fighter jets on Friday.
The Homeland Security Department said it was
stepping up airline security, but White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said
Americans did not need to change their travel plans.
After a day of
searches in Philadelphia, Newark and New York City, no explosives were found
inside the United States, though the investigation was continuing on at least
one suspicious package late Friday night.
Intelligence officials were
onto the plot for days, officials said.
The packages in England and Dubai
were discovered after Saudi Arabian intelligence picked up information related
to Yemen and passed it on to the US, two officials said.
Most of the
officials spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the ongoing
US intelligence officials warned last month that
terrorists hoped to mail chemical and biological materials as part of an attack
on the United States and other Western countries.
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