President Obama, speaking this afternoon about the suspicious devices discovered on flights to the U.S., said the packages constituted a “credible terrorist threat” and that an “initial examination of those packages has determined that they do apparently contain explosive material.”
Obama said that the packages, which were found last night on U.S.-bound flights in Dubai and near London, were addressed to “two places of Jewish worship in Chicago.” He confirmed that the packages had originated in Yemen, and suggested that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula might be responsible.
The packages prompted three UPS planes — two in Philadelphia and one in Newark — to be isolated and searched for suspicious packages today. Nothing was found.
The scare also led to increased security precautions today, including the escorting of a passenger plane by U.S. fighter jets over the concern that it was carrying cargo from Yemen.
The two packages found overseas are the only ones found so far, according to Deputy National Security Adviser for Counterterrorism John Brennan. They were made inert, he said, and are undergoing a forensic analysis.
The explosive material inside was “in a form that was designed to carry out some kind of attack,” Brennan said. The packages were “intended to do harm.” He did not say how much damage could have been done, and did not specify what sort of explosive material was involved, but described the devices as about the size of a breadbox.
Brennan suggested U.S. officials were tipped off to the packages.
“We had insight that there were suspicious packages out there that we had to find,” he said.
Although no firm connection between the packages and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has been made, Brennan said the group is “the most active operational franchise” of al Qaeda outside of the core in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He said anyone associated with the group is a subject of concern.
He also said no one has been taken into custody.
Brennan said that all cargo from Yemen is being carefully inspected.