Yemen probes air parcels amid pressure to root out Qaeda

30th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Yemen on Saturday launched a probe after explosives were found in air parcels sent to US synagogues from its territory by suspected Al-Qaeda militants whom it is under renewed pressure to eliminate.

With alarms bells going off across the world, US President Barack Obama said on Friday that the two packages which originated from Yemen were destined for Chicago synagogues and were a "credible terrorist threat."

Obama blamed Al-Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate of being responsible for the packages which were intercepted in Dubai and the East Midlands airport in Britain en route to the United States on board cargo planes.

Police in Dubai said on Saturday that the air parcel intercepted in the Gulf city-state "bears the hallmarks of those used by terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda."

Yemen -- the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden and headquarters of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) -- said it opened an investigation and would not let up its fight against global terrorism.

Security and civil aviation authorities "have begun an investigation" into the suspicious packages, a Yemeni government spokesman was quoted as saying Saturday by the state-run Saba news agency.

"This probe is being carried out in coordination with the competent authorities in the United Arab Emirates, Britain and the United States, and its results will be announced in due time," the official said.

"Yemen will continue to conduct efforts to fight against terrorism in cooperation with the international community," he said, adding: "Terrorism is a peril that threatens the entire world."

The discovery of the packages sparked an international security alert on Friday.

Probes were underway in Britain to see if one of the packages intercepted at East Midlands airport was a "viable" bomb, British Home Secretary Theresa May said on Saturday.

In the United States investigators swept cargo planes for possible Al-Qaeda bombs.

US media reported the packages contained a wire-rigged ink toner cartridge and suspicious powder and may have contained the explosive PETN.

"We will continue to pursue additional protective measures as long as it takes to ensure the safety and security of our citizens," Obama told a special news conference at the White House.

The two packages from Yemen contained explosive material and were a "credible terrorist threat," the US president said, as the White House thanked Saudi Arabia for tipping it off.

Obama made it clear he suspected AQAP of being behind the plot.

"Although we are still pursuing all of the facts, we do know that the packages originated in Yemen," Obama said.

"We know that Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terrorist group based in Yemen, continues to plan attacks against our homeland, our citizens, and our friends and allies."

Washington has pressed Yemen to track down US-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who has been linked to high-profile terror plots in the United States and believed to be hiding in the Arabian Peninsula country.

Awlaqi is accused by Washington of having had links with Major Nidal Hasan, a US Army psychiatrist accused of opening fire on colleagues at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 people in November 2009.

He is also suspected of having had ties to the September 11 hijackers, and with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian student accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day last year.

But analysts say that Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is also under pressure from the country's influential tribes, whose backing he needs for his political survival.

"Some tribes like the Hasheds who used to back Saleh are now... allying themselves with groups who support Al-Qaeda," said Sanaa university professor Adel al-Shaeh.

© 2010 AFP

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