x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Parcel bomb in Dubai 'looks like al Qa'eda's work'

Dubai police say US-bound air parcel containing explosives bore the hallmarks of al Qa'eda' as US says it is 'grateful' to Saudis for tip-off over threat emanating from Yemen.

A US-bound air parcel intercepted in Dubai that contained explosives bore the hallmarks of "terrorist organisations like al Qa'eda," the Emirate's police said today.

"The investigation into the suspicious packages that came from Yemen ... has shown that [one of them contained] a computer printer whose ink contained explosive material," a police statement said.

"The device was prepared in a professional manner and equipped with an electrical circuit linked to a mobile telephone (SIM) card concealed in the printer.

"The manner in which this device was prepared bears the hallmarks of those used by terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda," the statement added.

Experts confirmed that the substances found in the printer were “PETN” and “lead azide”, a highly explosive material used in explosive detonators. Dubai police experts were able to defuse the device.

Meanwhile the US said today it was tipped off by Saudi Arabia to the threat of parcel bombs from Yemen, adding that Washington was "grateful" to the Saudis "for their assistance in developing information that helped underscore the imminence of the threat emanating from Yemen."

US law enforcement officials continued to search for suspicious packages aboard planes today as President Barack Obama said that two parcels from Yemen apparently contained explosive material and were a "credible terrorist threat".

The discovery of the suspicious packages overnight on cargo planes in transit for the United States, one in Dubai and the other in Britain's East Midlands airport, sparked an international security alert.

After the alert, Mr Obama immediately ordered cargo planes at Philadelphia and Newark international airports to be towed to isolation and checked because they were thought to contain further packages from Yemen.

US and Canadian fighter jets were scrambled to accompany an Emirates plane into New York yesterday but Emirati authorities later said it was not carrying cargo from Yemen.

US fighter jets had earlier accompanied the plane to New York after it was determined to be "an aircraft of interest" as it flew into Canadian and then American air space, the US-Canadian military agency Norad said.

But an official source at the United Arab Emirates' civil aviation body, quoted by the official Emirati WAM agency, said late yesterday that the flight had been given the all clear.

"The Emirates plane that arrived today in the United States from Dubai did not contain any packages from Yemen," the source said.

The plane landed at John F. Kennedy airport at 3.40 pm local time (19.40 GMT) and was immediately surrounded by dozens of police cars, the report said.

Norad did not earlier identify the plane in its statement, but US media said it was Emirates Airlines flight 201 from the UAE and was intercepted because it had cargo from Yemen on board.

"Out of an abundance of caution, the North American Aerospace Defense Command diverted two Canadian CF-18s to track a civilian aircraft that was determined to be an aircraft of interest as it flew into and over Canadian airspace," Norad said in a statement.

"The civilian aircraft was passed to two US F-15s as it transited into US airspace and its ultimate destination at JFK airport."

At a special press conference at the White House, Mr Obama told reporters: ""We will continue to pursue additional protective measures as long as it takes to ensure the safety and security of our citizens."

The president made it clear he suspected al Qa'eda's Yemeni-based affiliate of being behind the plot, which could have serious ramifications for the global cargo industry.

"Although we are still pursuing all of the facts, we do know that the packages originated in Yemen," Mr Obama said.

"We know that al Qa'eda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terrorist group based in Yemen, continues to plan attacks against our homeland, our citizens, and our friends and allies."

Yemeni officials said their government had launched a full investigation and was working closely with international partners, including the United States.

Mr Obama's top counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, told reporters: "It does appear there were explosive materials in both of the packages" addressed to synagogues in Chicago,

"They were in a form that was designed to try to carry out some type of an attack. The initial analysis (is) that the materials that were found and the device that was uncovered was intended to do harm."

US media reported that the packages, which held a wire-rigged ink toner cartridge and suspicious powder, may have contained the explosive PETN, the same substance used by would-be Christmas day bomber, Farouk Abdulmutallab, used in 2009 and the attempted shoe-bomber Richard Reid used in 2001.

British authorities were probing whether the package contained a "viable" bomb, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, said today.

"At this stage I can say that the device did contain explosive material but it is not yet clear that it was a viable explosive device. The forensic work continues," May said.

Mr Brennan said all packages originating from Yemen would now be "carefully screened",

In the hours after the discovery of the packages, the US authorities gave advance warning to Jewish leaders in Chicago of a threat against synagogues in the city.

However, synagogues in Chicago planned to hold regular services on Saturday.

The cargo scare offered a new twist as Western authorities have usually focused on dangers posed to passenger airliners after the September 11, 2001 attacks, when al Qa'eda hijacked planes and struck targets in New York and Washington.

* Agencies and WAM