Suspect packages addressed to US religious institutions: FBI

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Two suspicious packages intercepted on cargo planes in transit to the United States were addressed to religious institutions in Chicago, the FBI said Friday as Jewish synagogues nationwide were placed on alert.

The FBI said it does not believe an attack is imminent but cautioned area religious institutions to be "vigilant."

"There have been no threats made or received indicating that anyone or any location in Chicago is at risk," Ross Rice, spokesman for the FBI's Chicago office, told AFP in an e-mail.

"The two suspicious packages did not contain explosives."

Rice declined to say whether the packages were addressed to Jewish synagogues or another type of religious institution.

"Since two of the suspicious packages that were intercepted were addressed to religious institutions in Chicago, all churches, synagogues and mosques in the Chicago area should be vigilant for any unsolicited or unexpected packages, especially those originating from overseas locations," Rice said.

Jewish organizations in the city were contacted early Friday and warned of the threat, said Linda Hasse, vice president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

"We were told that synagogues should be on the alert," Hasse told AFP.

"We are taking appropriate precautions and advising local synagogues to do likewise."

The Anti-Defamation League said it was informed by "law enforcement sources" of a threat to Jewish institutions "in the form of packages mailed from overseas, particularly Great Britain, Yemen and Saudi Arabia."

The group sent notices to Jewish organizations across the country urging them to "increase mailroom security and to contact law enforcement immediately if they see anything suspicious."

President Barack Obama was told late Thursday of a "potential terrorist threat" from suspicious packages from Yemen on two cargo planes, one in Britain and the other in Dubai, the White House said.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that as a precaution, extra security measures were taken regarding other cargo planes at Newark and Philadelphia international airports in the United States.

US package delivery giant FedEx suspended deliveries from Yemen on Friday after a suspicious package originating from there was confiscated in Dubai.

"In cooperation with the FBI, local authorities have confiscated a suspicious package at the FedEx facility in Dubai," a company statement said.

"The shipment originated in Yemen and as an additional safety measure, FedEx has embargoed all shipments originating from Yemen."

© 2010 AFP

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