Plane lands safely at JFK amid global terror alerts

October 30th, 2010 - 2:55 am ICT by BNO News  

LONDON/D.C. (BNO NEWS) — Fighter jets escorted a United Arab Emirates passenger plane from Yemen to New York amid a continuing series of terror alerts on Friday, officials said, in what appeared to be a potentially major terrorist plot.

The scare began on early Friday morning (European time) when a UPS cargo plane landed at East Midlands Airport from Yemen en-route to Chicago via Philadelphia. It landed in England as part of a routine stop over.

Scotland Yard said the cargo was removed from the aircraft and examined by explosives officers, after which they were sent for additional scientific examination. Sources said no explosives were found in the package, but did say it contained powder and wires.

A second suspicious package, also originating from Yemen and en-route to Chicago, was found at a FedEx facility in Dubai. “In cooperation with the FBI, local authorities have confiscated a suspicious package at the FedEx facility in Dubai,” said Maury Lane, a spokesman for FedEx.

As a result of the discovery and the suspicion that they were terrorism-related, FedEx has indefinitely embargoed all shipments from Yemen. “The Company is cooperating fully with the authorities on this matter,” Lane added.

What was in the second package was not immediately clear, but U.S. media reports indicated actual explosives had been found inside. BNO News was not immediately able to independently verify these claims.

“Last night (U.S. time), intelligence and law enforcement agencies discovered potential suspicious packages on two planes in transit to the United States,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs. “Based on close cooperation among U.S. government agencies and with our foreign allies and partners, authorities were able to identify and examine two suspicious packages, one in East Midlands, United Kingdom and one in Dubai.”

Gibbs acknowledged that both packages originated from Yemen and, as a result of the threat and out of an abundance of caution, cargo planes at Newark Liberty and Philadelphia airports were searched. Several UPS trucks in New York City were also searched, but no suspicious packages were found on either the planes or the trucks.

President Barack Obama was notified of the potential terrorist threat by John Brennan, his assistant for Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism, at around 10.35 p.m. EDT on Thursday “The President directed U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and the Department of Homeland Security, to take steps to ensure the safety and security of the American people, and to determine whether these threats are a part of any additional terrorist plotting,” Gibbs said. “The President has received regular updates from his national security team since he was alerted to the threat.”

Later, United Arab Emirates flight 201, a Boeing 777-300ER that departed Dubai International Airport earlier on Friday, was escorted by Canadian and American fighter jets until it landed safely at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

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

The White House said President Obama will make a statement from the White House Brady Press Briefing room at 4.15 p.m. EDT to discuss the ongoing terror alert. Following Obama’s statement, Gibbs and Brennan will also address the press.

Both packages discovered in England and Dubai were addressed to religious institutions in Chicago, according to Special Agent Ross Rice of the FBI. “In addition to this, there are no identifiable or specific threats to the Chicago area,” Rice said. “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.”

CNN International reported, citing unidentified sources, that both packages were sent from the same name and address in Yemen, allegedly someone with known ties to terrorism. It also said Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is believed to have been behind the packages, although officials did not immediately confirm that.

A BNO News source said it had not received bomb or radiological threats against one of the planes involved, hinting that authorities were acting on information received from allies.

In response to Friday’s possible terror plot, which is rumored to be a ‘dry run’, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced it will take a number of steps to enhance aviation security.

“Some of these security measures will be visible while others will not,” DHS said in a statement. “The public may recognize specific enhancements 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. As always, we remind the public to remain vigilant and report suspicious activity to local law enforcement.”

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and DHS are expected to announce more information about the new security measures later on Friday.

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