US President Barack Obama addressed the nation on Friday, saying US authorities would spare no effort to find the source of the packages which he called a “credible terrorist threat” aimed at two places of Jewish worship. One parcel intercepted in Dubai contained a bomb hidden in a printer which bore all the hallmarks of the al-Qaeda, said the Dubai police whose experts defused the device.
“The parcel was prepared in a professional way where a closed electrical circuit was connected to a mobile phone SIM card hidden inside the printer,” a Dubai police statement said.
The plot originating in Yemen will further heighten security concerns about the unstable Arab state, seen by the West as the home of the al-Qaeda’s most inventive and audacious affiliate.
Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and one of its leading figures, US-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlak, have been priority US targets since it took responsibility for a failed plot to blow up a US jet on Christmas Day last year.
The Dubai police said they found pentaerythritol trinitrate in a printer and cartridge, the same chemical explosive used in the bomb sewn into the underwear of a Nigerian man who has been charged with attempting to blow up the airliner last Christmas. There was no immediate claim or responsibility for the parcels but US officials suspect AQAP which is affiliated with the al-Qaeda.
The White House said Saudi Arabia had helped to identify the threat from Yemen while Britain and the United Arab Emirates also provided information. Yemeni security forces set up checkpoints across Sanaa on Saturday, searching vehicles and carrying out identity checks, in the hunt for the militants. Dozens of heavily armed police and military forces were scattered across the Yemeni capital, stopping cars and questioning passengers.
Yemen had also stepped up security at its air and seaports, a security official said.
Obama said security would be increased for American air travel for as long as necessary. US officials said they were searching for more packages that could have come from Yemen. The package scare caused broad disruptions on Friday, with the US scrambling fighter jets to accompany a passenger jet and mobilising explosive experts to search cargo planes.
One of the packages was found on a United Parcel Service (UPS) cargo plane at East Midlands Airport, north of London. The other was discovered at a FedEx Corp facility in Dubai. UPS and FedEx said they were halting shipments from Yemen. UPS planes were searched and then cleared in New Jersey and Philadelphia.