Breaking: Bomb found on Yemen-to-US cargo flight; Update: Fox confirms concern over “several packages”; Update: CBS says 10-20 packages out of Yemen sought; Update: US says it’s AQ, targeting synagogues

posted at 2:00 pm on October 29, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

TSA has begun searching several planes in the US after British officials discovered a bomb on a Yemen-to-US cargo flight.  The bomb was disguised in a toner cartridge, and the UPS flight was due to land in Chicago today:

Investigators in the United Kingdom found a bomb disguised as a toner cartridge aboard a plane flying from Yemen to Chicago when it stopped in London on Thursday night – one reason for heightened concern at U.S. airports on Friday, a law-enforcement source with detailed knowledge of the investigation said.

Two UPS cargo planes at Philadelphia International Airport and another at Newark International Airport are being examined for questionable shipments, the company said. One of the planes at Philadelphia came from Paris, the other from Cologne, Germany, UPS said. The plane at Newark also arrived from Cologne.

These reports are preliminary, of course, but the Yemen connection strongly hints at al-Qaeda.  The network has tried to conduct a large-scale operation against the US for years, but usually target passenger services like normal commercial flights or subway systems.  They may have decided to test the cargo system to see whether they can penetrate it effectively — and if the bomb made it to the UK, they have at least managed to succeed on the first phase of a terrorist attack.

Assuming this story gets substantiated, it may put a big dent in international trade.  The vulnerability was always present in shipping on sea and in the air; six years ago, the lack of inspections at American ports became an issue in the presidential election.  If packages have to get opened before flights, even just from a few origination points, it will raise the cost of trade substantially for everyone — which is, of course, the entire motivation for targeting the cargo systems.

It’s a good thing that AQ “no longer poses a threat to the US,” isn’t it?

Update: At the same link as above, CNN now reports that New York City has dispatched its bomb squad to a UPS delivery truck with a suspected bomb on board.

Update II: CNN now updates at the same link that the toner cartridge had been “manipulated,” but that it tested negative for explosive material.  ABC News, meanwhile, headlines its coverage at the moment by saying “Authorities investigate mass bomb plot against US cargo.”  Stay tuned.

Update III: The package in the UK looks like an attempt to at least trigger a security response:

Test results for explosives were negative, one law enforcement official told the Associated Press, but officials remained concerned. The flight had been bound for Chicago but was at a British airport when the cartridge was spotted.

During a basic security screening process in the United Kingdom, officials found the suspicious item, according to a U.S. government official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

U.K. officials discovered that the toner cartridge had been manipulated and found wires attached to it and white powder.

That may be hoax, or it could just be incompetence by the terrorists.

Update IV: Fox confirms that officials are concerned over “several” suspicious packages, with destinations in Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York. The two planes in Philadelphia being checked came from Paris and Cologne, Germany, according to the AP.

Update V: CBS reports that the Joint Terrorism Task Force wants to find 10-20 packages sent out of Sanna, Yemen. If that “white powder” sounds familiar, it should:

A Joint Terrorism Task Force source tells CBS News that investigators are looking for between 10-20 packages shipped out of the UPS office in Sanna, Yemen during the same time frame. According to the source, there were components inside the ink cartridge.

Authorities are looking for a small device in the packaging similar to the Detroit underwear bomber device.

That strengthens the potential AQ connection.

Update VI: CBS now reports that the Newark plane and two trucks in NYC have been cleared (same link as last update).

Update VII: CNN reports that the US believes this to be an al-Qaeda plot originating from the al-Awlaki network, and that they wanted to target synagogues:

U.S. officials believe that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was behind the plot that caused a security scare at English and American airports on Friday.

A Yemeni diplomat in Washington says the Yemeni government has opened a full investigation into a suspicious device that was shipped from the country to the East Midlands Airport in the United Kingdom. …

In the last 24 hours, security officials received a tip from an unnamed ally that packages coming from Yemen were destined for synagogues in Chicago, Illinois, according to information given to CNN contributor Fran Townsend.

British security officials are holding “a number of suspicious packages” pulled from cargo flights.

Update VIII:  In case it wasn’t obvious, the initial investigations resulted from a tip, not routine security processing, according to CNN (same link).

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Wonder if any of the bombers was spotted wearing a hooded sweatshirt?

Doodad Pro on October 29, 2010 at 9:51 PM

No sweat, Bis Sis says Al Qaeda is no longer a threat.

Phew. Glad she said that. I might have been worried.

petefrt on October 29, 2010 at 10:05 PM

I’m curious about the “wires”. They don’t make sense unless you’re a bomb-maker who wants to be discovered. I’m betting the “wires” didn’t trigger the investigation but make a handy excuse (which ftr I’m totally cool with. Good job guys, however it came about).

The hard part was getting the target to order the cartridge from you.

There’s definitely a “rest of the story” in there somewhere.

Jason Coleman on October 29, 2010 at 10:11 PM

100% political punch……manifests/bills of lading/secure suppliers…..100% BS manufactured by The Messiah and his apostles.

Healing we will feel!

dmann on October 29, 2010 at 10:13 PM

Andy McCarthy questions whether the bomb attempts by AlQaeda have anything to do with our electoral politics in that the group hates us all, not making the distinction over which party is is power.

The more insidious group, he says, is the Muslim Brotherhood, which is trying to collapse us from within through infiltration and the imposition of sharia law.

onlineanalyst on October 29, 2010 at 10:35 PM

BBC’s North America editor, Mark Mardell, writes that the toner cartridge under suspicion in the UK did not contain explosive materials:

Mr Obama was the first to say that the devices contained “explosive materials”, though off-the-record briefings in Britain suggested the one at East Midlands Airport didn’t.

Meanwhile, CNN and the rest of the media have been talking about PETN and al Qaeda – just like Obama – even though it appears as though none of the devices in the UK were actually explosives…

Anyone else get the feeling that this is a bit ginned up? Anyone wondering why Obama said “allegedly” about these devices containing explosive materials?

Oh, and just to cover their bases, they can always fall back on the fact that toner is, in fact, an explosive material.

Seixon on October 30, 2010 at 12:59 AM

Nothing like a quiet Friday, huh?

kingsjester on October 30, 2010 at 9:25 AM

^ pages of comments is too many to scroll-has anyone thought about or mentioned here the millions of containers coming off of ships at ports like Seattle, Portland, etc?
Folks-I happen to personally know that stuff does NOT get searched. It would slow things down too much.

Badger40 on October 30, 2010 at 10:00 AM

Badger40 on October 30, 2010 at 10:00 AM

I don’t think they did. By the way, when I stepped outside here in NW MS this morning, there were several jet trails in the air. I think patrols have been stepped up.

kingsjester on October 30, 2010 at 10:03 AM

Targeting synagogues ? Peanut Carter just asked “What’s the problem ?”


viking01 on October 30, 2010 at 12:17 PM

According to the telegraph in the UK, at least one bomb was meant to go off in flight over the UK.

Army Brat on October 30, 2010 at 7:37 PM

Those bombs were sent as a warning to independent voters to remind them not to vote for conservatives.
or maybe they weren’t.

gordo on October 31, 2010 at 9:12 AM

I don’t care what anybody says… Washington is totally off base on terror prevention. They refuse to acknowledge, or fix the root cause because of political correctness and cowardice. Instead, the country is totally reactionary. Do we accept the fact that eventually one of those bastards will succeed, and kill another 3,000 Americans before our clowns-in-charge accept reality? I fear so.

ultracon on October 31, 2010 at 12:36 PM