Intercepted Parcel Intended to Blow Up Plane: Britain

Washington/London/Sana'a, Oct 31 (DPA) British Prime Minister David Cameron said Saturday that a package containing explosives intercepted at a British airport had been intended to detonate aboard an aircraft.

"We believe that the device was designed to go off on the aeroplane," Cameron said. "There is no early evidence it was designed to take place over British soil, but of course we cannot rule that out."

Investigations in the Middle East, Europe and the US were ongoing, a day after two packages containing explosive materials were found on US-bound cargo flights by FedEx and UPS at airports in Britain and Dubai, both originating in Yemen.

Yemeni security officials said Saturday that a young woman suspected of having sent the bomb parcels was arrested Saturday in Sana'a.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh told reporters that Yemen had received a tip about the girl from US authorities, who identified the suspect through a mobile phone SIM card attached to one of the parcels.

The young woman, who was not named, and her mother were arrested after police raided their home in the poor Madhbah neighbourhood in Sana'a, police sources said.

"She is a student of medicine, and she was arrested for interrogation," one police source said on condition of anonymity.

Yemeni officials said they were looking at "more suspicious parcels that were going to be sent out of the country, including some intended for the US".

Both FedEx and UPS announced late Friday that they were halting all services out of Yemen, and police in Sana'a went further Saturday, shutting their offices completely.

Yemeni authorities said the companies' planes do not "take off or land" in their country. The firms have pledged full cooperation with authorities.

"Our investigation remains sensitive," British Home Secretary Theresa May said after a meeting of the government's top committee to deal with the security issue.

Earlier, officials in Dubai confirmed the parcel they captured contained "powerful explosives" and was linked to mobile technology, a method that bore the hallmarks of Al Qaeda, the terrorist network led by Osama bin Laden.

"We will take immediate action to stop the movement of all unaccompanied air freight originating from Yemen, into or through (Britain)," May said in London, noting that direct flights from the country had already been halted in January.

On Christmas Day 2009, a 23-year-old Nigerian man boarded a plane in Yemen and tried to blow up the US-bound aircraft with an explosive device in his underwear.

CNN reported that the latest package recovered in Britain contained a cartridge with wires and a circuit hanging from it.

US President Barack Obama warned Friday of a "credible terrorist threat," after the discovery of the packages from Yemen, where Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has its operating base. Both parcels were addressed to Jewish temples in Chicago.

Obama's top counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan, said the packages were "in a form that was designed to carry out some kind of attack".

Brennan telephoned with Saleh, who pledged full cooperation in the investigation.

"Yemen is determined to continue the war on terror in cooperation with the international community," a Yemeni official was quoted by the state-run SABA news agency as saying.

Brennan said that the US was "grateful to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for their assistance in developing information that helped underscore the imminence of the threat emanating from Yemen".

"The events of the past 24 hours underscore the necessity of remaining vigilant against terrorism," Obama said in a brief statement.

He had ordered authorities "to take whatever steps are necessary to protect our citizens from this type of attack."

Obama said Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula "continues to plan attacks" and that the US was working with Yemeni authorities to "destroy this Al Qaeda affiliate".

US officials did not immediately link the latest events to Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen described by Western intelligence services as a senior Al Qaeda figure who operates out of Yemen and has called for attacks against Washington's interests.

In a sign of tighter security measures, several cargo planes received additional checks, and a flight Friday from the UAE to New York's JFK airport was escorted by US fighter jets to its destination because it contained cargo from Yemen, US authorities said.

The UAE General Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement that "the Emirates Airline flight from Dubai to the US did not carry any shipment from Yemen".

Security and cargo screening were stepped up at numerous US airports, in action taken out of an "abundance of caution".

Germany's transportation ministry said late Saturday that German-based package service DHL has agreed to take any cargo from Yemen through the company's Leipzig handling centre for examination. The move was in response to a request from the US transportation safety administration.



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