- Suspicious package found at British airport
- Cargo plane was flying from Yemen to US
- Planes at two US airports grounded amid fears
A SUSPICIOUS package found aboard a cargo flight from Yemen to the United States has sparked an international terror alert.
Aviation officials said planes at Philadelphia International Airport and Newark Liberty Airport in the US were towed away to be checked after police found a suspicious package on a US cargo plane at a regional British airport.
The US Transportation Security Administration said that it was monitoring reports of potentially suspicious items.
“Out of an abundance of caution the planes were moved to a remote location where they are being met by law enforcement officials and swept,” the TSA said.
Authorities in Britain confirmed that a suspicious package had been found early on Friday in a freight distribution centre at East Midlands Airport in central England.
Earlier, CNN cited a law enforcement official as saying a suspected bomb disguised as a toner cartridge was found on a US cargo plane in London during a stopover on a flight from Yemen to Chicago.
It later cited a second law enforcement source as saying suspicions were raised because the toner cartridge had been manipulated but a test for explosives proved negative.
Concerns remain that the nature of the package meant it could be a test run for a bomb.
US media reports suggested that at least one of the cargo planes being swept in the United States had also passed through East Midlands Airport.
Fran Townsend, who was homeland security adviser to president George W Bush, told CNN the security scare followed growing intelligence concerns about a possible attack by al-Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate.
“There had been a rising concern about packages and cargo being used to launch an attack,” she said.
“The US intelligence community has been focused on that. You add to that in the last 24 hours a tip from a very credible US ally who provided some, I’m told, very specific information about packages coming out of Yemen.”
Mr Townsend said a plane had been grounded in Dubai in addition to the one in Britain and that the concern was over cargo planes containing packages from Yemen.
“They’ll look at every single carrier who potentially either took packages out of Yemen or picked them up en route in a second country on their way here from Yemen.”
Yemen, the ancestral homeland of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, faces a growing threat from the local branch of his global jihadist network.
Over the past decade, it has become a haven for violent extremists, becoming the headquarters of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the hiding place for US-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi, who was linked to high-profile terror plots in the United States.