Dubai police have confirmed that one of the parcels in its possession — sent from Yemen on board a cargo flight and destined for a Chicago-based religious centre — contained PETN, a highly destructive explosive.
According to a Dubai police statement on Saturday, posted on the Official WAM news agency website, investigations had revealed that the suspicious package found onboard a Federal Express cargo plane coming from Yemen contained a computer printer with explosives loaded in its toner cartridge. The “professionally” loaded explosive was connected to an electric circuit through a mobile phone chip hidden inside the printer, the statement added. The terror plot “carries features similar to previous attacks carried out by terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda”. The statement added that an “international call” had tipped off the Dubai authorities about the possibility of an explosive device hidden in postal packages. Apart from PETN, the package contained lead azide, used in bomb detonators. PETN was also the chemical explosive that a Nigerian man had sewn into his underwear during a failed attempt last Christmas to blow up an airliner over Detroit. Dubai police successfully defused the explosive device, the statement observed. However, another suspect packet, which had also apparently originated from Yemen was recovered at the British East Midlands airport, from a cargo flight run by the courier firm UPS. Preliminary tests indicated that the package contained PETN, U.S. officials were quoted as saying.
The Yemeni government has promised an investigation jointly with the United States, Britain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). However, on Saturday, an official quoted by the state-run Saba news agency disputed the claim that explosives on board a UPS flight had originated from Yemen. “No UPS cargo planes left Yemen to other countries in the last days and there are no direct flights from Yemen to the United Kingdom or the United States,” he said. He stressed that “UPS planes never land or take off in Yemen”. The official urged the media “not to make hasty judgments about sensitive issues and…wait until investigations reveal the truth”.
Meanwhile, Canadian and American fighter planes had, over their airspace, escorted the UAE-run Emirates Airlines Flight 201 to New York's John F. Kennedy airport. FBI spokesman Richard Kolko was quoted as saying that the measure was taken because the plane was carrying cargo from Yemen. However, an official source in UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority, quoted by the state-run WAM, contradicted this assertion. The source said that Emirates Airline flight from Dubai to the U.S. “did not carry any shipment from Yemen”.