Friday, October 29, 2010
Obama Says Explosives Were U.S.-Bound - NYTimes.com
President Obama said on Friday that the United States had been the target of a “credible terrorist threat” by someone in Yemen who mailed packages containing explosive devices that were shipped via cargo planes and addressed to two synagogues in Chicago, setting off a global terror alert and a day of dramatic precautionary activity in the United States.
One explosive device was found at a FedEx facility in Dubai, and another was found early Friday morning at an airport in Britain, American officials said. Speaking at the White House on Friday afternoon, Mr. Obama said both of the devices “apparently did contain” explosives, contrary to earlier reports that the device found in Britain did not.
Mr. Obama said investigators were looking into the possibility of a connection to a Yemen-based group affiliated with Al Qaeda.
“The events of the past 24 hours underscores the necessity of remaining vigilant against terrorism,” Mr. Obama said in a brief statement to reporters at the White House. “The American people should be confident that we will not waver in our resolve to defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates and to root out violent extremism in all its forms.”
Representative Jane Harman, a California Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said late Friday that both packages contained PETN, the same explosive contained in the bomb sewn into the underwear worn by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on his thwarted attempt to down a commercial airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day.
In a telephone interview from Los Angeles, Ms. Harman, who was briefed by the director of the Transportation Security Administration, John Pistole, said, “These were garden-variety, signature explosives of Al Qaeda.” Referring to improvised explosive devices, she added: “These were certainly I.E.D.’s. These were the real deal.”
American officials said an initial tip about the existence of the explosive devices came Friday from the intelligence service in Saudi Arabia. One American official said the Saudis provided “very specific information” that allowed American counterterrorism agents to quickly intercept the two packages before they reached their destination.
Mr. Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, praised the Saudi assistance in a statement Friday evening. To reporters, Mr. Brennan characterized the case as an act of attempted terrorism but did not elaborate on the extent of the potential damage from the explosives. He said that there were no suspects in custody.
“They were in a form that was designed to try to carry out some type of attack,” Mr. Brennan said, adding that both devices had been rendered inactive and were in the early stages of being analyzed. “The materials that were found and the device that was uncovered was intended to do harm.”
The wide-scale alert spread to the United States on Friday morning, when officials isolated two cargo planes at airports in Newark and Philadelphia and searched them for packages originating in Yemen, and New York police searched a delivery truck in Brooklyn. None of the shipments reaching the United States from Yemen were found to contain explosives, officials said.