WASHINGTON // One of the two powerful bombs shipped from Yemen to Chicago-area synagogues nearly slipped past investigators even after they were tipped off, a US official and a British security consultant said today.
Intelligence officials were tipped off to a pair of explosive packages on planes in England and the UAE early on Friday morning.
After a six-hour sweep of cargo at the East Midlands airport in central England, Leicestershire police came up empty and removed the security perimeter they had set up, Chris Yates, a British aviation safety consultant, said.
But when officials in Dubai said they had discovered a bomb disguised as a computer printer cartridge, authorities urged the British to look again, according to a US official.
"As a direct consequence, they put the cordon back up again and looked again and found the explosives," said Yates, relying on a report given to him by an eyewitness to the searches.
President Barack Obama's counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, called it "a very sophisticated device, in terms of how it was constructed, how it was concealed."
"It was a viable device. It was self-contained, so it could have been detonated and activated," Brennan told NBC television's "Meet the Press," adding that officials are trying to determine whether the planes or the synagogues were the intended targets.
On Friday evening, the Leicestershire police handed control of the investigation to the Metropolitan Police, the London-based agency also known as Scotland Yard.
Leicestershire police declined to answer questions today about the searches, referring callers to Scotland Yard, which traditionally takes the lead in major terrorism cases in Britain.
Yesterday the General Civil Aviation Authority for the UAE revealed that the package discovered in Dubai International Airport was shipped from Sanaa on board a Qatar Airways plane heading to Doha and then forwarded from that flight to Dubai.
* With WAM