British Home Secretary Theresa May confirmed that a device found on a U.S.-bound cargo flight at Midlands Airport, north of London, was “viable'' and could have caused mid-air explosion.

The device , described as a “manipulated” printer cartridge, was hidden inside a UPS courier parcel sent from Yemen and discovered following a tipoff that a courier company was likely to be used by suspected Al-Qaeda militants to send bombs to America.

Speaking after an emergency meeting of the government's crisis group, Cobra, Ms. May said: “I can confirm the device was viable and could have exploded. The target may have been an aircraft and had it detonated the aircraft could have been brought down. We do not believe that the perpetrators of the attack would have known the location of the device when it was planned to explode.”

She announced immediate halt to all unaccompanied air freight from Yemen passing through Britain. All direct flights to Britain were also suspended. But she said there were no plans to raise the threat level to Britain from “severe”, which denotes that a terror attack is “highly likely”, to one indicating that it might be “imminent”.

“At this stage there is no information to indicate another attack is imminent. The [international terrorism] threat level in this country is at severe, that means a terrorist attack in this country is highly likely,” she said.

Ironically, the incident came barely days after British and European airlines complained of too much and “redundant'' security checks at airports.

More In: International | News