Britain scrambles for new security steps on Yemen freight

29th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain is "urgently considering" new security measures for air cargo from Yemen after a suspect package flown in from the country sparked an international alert, the government said Friday.

Police said they were examining the package after it arrived aboard an "American-registered cargo plane" at East Midlands Airport in central England. The plane was en route to Chicago via Philadelphia.

"We are urgently considering what steps need to be put in place regarding security of freight originating from Yemen," British Home Secretary Theresa May said in a statement.

"Safety and security of the UK remains my number one priority. We are working closely with our international colleagues and will continue to do so."

The British government suspended direct flights from Yemen in January after a Nigerian "underwear bomber" with links to the Arab country allegedly tried to blow up a US airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.

May confirmed that the package "originated in Yemen and was addressed to a destination in the US" and was "currently being examined."

"At this stage there is nothing to suggest that any location in the UK was being targeted," she added.

A Home Office source said the plane was believed to have stopped somewhere else before Britain but the location had not been confirmed.

The BBC reported the object was not a bomb although it was "potentially sinister." Several media outlets reported that the package was a doctored ink toner cartridge containing white powder with wires attached to it.

London's Metropolitan Police, which took over responsibility for the operation from local police, said in a statement: "The plane stopped at East Midlands Airport as part of a routine stopover.

"Cargo removed from the plane was examined. Further tests were carried out. Following this a number of items have been sent for additional scientific examination."

Police confirmed that "explosives officers" attended the airport but that the airport "continued to operate as normal during the day."

The package, along with another found in Dubai, sparked an international alert as investigators in the United States swept cargo planes. US President Barack Obama was informed late Thursday of a "potential terrorist threat".

Local police said they had examined the suspicious package at East Midlands Airport in the early hours of Friday morning, before announcing there was no threat mid-morning.

However, they reinstalled security cordons at about 2:00 pm (1300 GMT) but it was later lifted.

© 2010 AFP

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