Numerous U.S.-bound UPS cargo planes were grounded and several trucks stopped Oct. 29 after a suspicious package was discovered on board a UPS aircraft in London late Oct. 28. More than a dozen similar devices were subsequently found. Initial tests found explosives in only one of the devices.
More than a dozen suspicious packages believed to have originated in Yemen are currently being investigated by security agencies in the United States and United Kingdom and have led to the grounding and inspection of numerous UPS flights. The investigations appear to be linked to a package found on a U.S.-bound UPS cargo flight while it was at East Midlands airport in central England on the night of Oct. 28. That package contained an ink toner cartridge that had been filled with white powder and had what appears to be a circuit board and wires attached to it, and another similar device was found in Dubai, according to a White House statement. The suspicious object in England initially tested negative for explosives, but the device in Dubai tested positive, according to a local official. So far, suspicious UPS packages are being investigated in Newark, N.J., Philadelphia, Pa., and New York, N.Y., as well as East Midlands, England, and Dubai. Packages were removed from UPS aircraft and UPS ground shipping trucks. While all the packages in New York and Newark have been cleared by New York Police Department bomb squads, packages in Philadelphia remain under investigation. CNN has reported and STRATFOR sources have confirmed that synagogues in Chicago may have been a target of these apparently inert devices. However, there are no reports of suspicious packages being investigated in Chicago, although the original package discovered Oct. 28 was on board a Chicago-bound flight. Because the original package came from Yemen, a country from which previous attacks on air carriers have originated, authorities have been treating it as a suspicious potential explosive device and have expanded their investigation to include other packages in the United States and United Kingdom. So far, only the device discovered in the UAE has been confirmed to contain explosive materials; however, it is unclear if those materials made it a viable device. None of the suspicious packages in the United States have been confirmed to contain explosive materials. Investigations are ongoing, but getting a viable explosive device onto a U.S.-bound aircraft would require overcoming more stringent security measures. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), based in Yemen, has been responsible for two attacks in the past year that involved innovative ways of smuggling explosives on board aircraft, so the link to Yemen is interesting in that it may indicate yet another plot from AQAP. U.S. authorities are indicating that AQAP is the top suspect. The group has proven its ability to deploy viable explosive devices in the past and remains one of the most innovative militant groups when it comes to conducting attacks against aviation targets. The presence of explosives on the flight in Dubai does not necessarily indicate that this unfolding plot posed a direct threat — at this point, we will have to wait to see if the explosives discovered in Dubai were part of a viable device and whether any other suspicious packages contained explosives.