* Obama: Two parcels had "explosive material"
* Suspicious packages found in Britain and Dubai
* Saudi Arabia helped identify threat from Yemen
* Being sent to "two places of Jewish worship in Chicago"
* UPS and FedEx halt Yemen cargo
(Adds Saudi Arabia helping to identify threat from Yemen)
By Phil Stewart and Adrian Croft
WASHINGTON/LONDON, Oct 29 Security officials in
Britain and Dubai intercepted two parcel bombs being sent from
Yemen to the United States in a "credible terrorist threat,"
U.S. President Barack Obama said on Friday.
The parcels were bound for "two places of Jewish worship in
Chicago," Obama said. The Anti-Defamation League, a prominent
Jewish organization, earlier warned of a danger to U.S. Jewish
institutions from packages mailed from Britain, Yemen and Saudi
Suspicion fell on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which
had taken responsibility for a failed plot to blow up a U.S.
passenger jet on Christmas Day in 2009. [ID:nLD436393]
The group, thought to include Yemenis and Saudis, is
affiliated with al Qaeda, whose militants killed about 3,000
people using hijacked planes in the Sept. 11 attacks on the
United States in 2001.
"Initial examinations of those packages has determined that
they do apparently contain explosive material," Obama said in a
televised briefing, calling it "a credible terrorist threat
against our country."
The White House said "both of these packages originated
from Yemen" and Obama was notified of the threat on Thursday
Speaking just days before the U.S. congressional elections
on Tuesday, Obama said a top aide had spoken to Yemen's
president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and that Saleh had pledged full
cooperation in the investigation.
One of the packages was found on a United Parcel Service
(UPS.N) cargo plane at East Midlands Airport, about 160 miles
(260 km) north of London. The other was discovered at a FedEx
Corp (FDX.N) facility in Dubai.
UPS and FedEx, the world's largest cargo airline, said they
were halting shipments from Yemen.
A TRIAL RUN?
One U.S. official and some analysts speculated that the
parcels may have been a test of cargo screening procedures and
the reaction of security officials.
"This may be a trial run," the U.S. official said.
The White House said Saudi Arabia helped determine that the
threat came from Yemen, while Britain, the United Arab Emirates
and "other friends and partners" also provided information.
"The United States is grateful to the Kingdom of Saudi
Arabia for their assistance in developing information that
helped underscore the imminence of the threat emerging from
Yemen," said Obama's homeland security adviser, John Brennan.
In the United States, UPS planes were checked and then
cleared in New Jersey and Philadelphia. The Transportation
Security Administration said they were searched "out of an
abundance of caution.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it was
tightening aviation security measures as a result of the scare.
The British government said it was "too soon to say" whether it
would follow suit but it was "urgently considering" what steps
to take about freight coming from Yemen.
British police said an item found on the UPS plane was sent
for further testing. CNN said it was an ink toner cartridge
converted into a bomb.
An official source in the United Arab Emirates said "an
explosive device was found in the package that originated in
Yemen" and the parcel was similar to the one found in Britain.
"We were on to this," Brennan said. "Clearly they are
looking to identify vulnerabilities in our system."
He said it was it was not clear how the devices were
supposed to be activated.
The man accused of the failed Christmas Day bombing, Umar
Farouk Abdulmutallab, has told U.S. investigators he got the
device and training from al Qaeda militants in Yemen.
Since then, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and one of
its leading figures, American-born Muslim cleric Anwar
al-Awlaki, have become priority U.S. targets. The United States
has stepped up military aid to Yemen, which has been trying to
quell the resurgent branch of al Qaeda.
(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Michelle Nichols, Christine
Kearney, Lynn Adler and Mark Egan in New York, Jeff Mason and
Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington and Mohammed Abbas in London;
Writing by John O'Callaghan; editing by Christopher Wilson)