US bans Yemen air cargo, sends security experts

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The United States has placed a temporary ban on US-bound air cargo from Yemen, after the discovery of a parcel bomb plot blamed on the Yemen-based branch of Al-Qaeda, a top US official said Monday.

Also, the US agency tasked with transportation security said it had sent a team of experts to Yemen to help train officials in the screening of US-bound air cargo once it resumes.

Other countries also have stepped up emergency measures in the wake of the plot's discovery, with Germany extending a ban on air freight from Yemen that also covered all direct and indirect passenger flights originating in the Arabian peninsula country.

Shortly after the discovery of the bombs, Britain banned all freight from Yemen from coming into the country, and France took similar measures to suspend air freight from Yemen.

Janet Napolitano, the secretary of Homeland Security, told MSNBC television that the US ban would continue "for another week," implying the practice had already begun, and also said "additional screening devices have been authorized."

She also recalled the enhanced screening put into place after last year's failed Christmas Day bombing of a jet, a plot that was developed in Yemen.

After the discovery of the parcel bomb plot, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) "immediately took additional measures to enhance protocols for screening inbound cargo," the agency meanwhile said in a statement Monday.

TSA chief John Pistole also said the team of agents would provide screening, training and equipment for cargo shipments at Sanaa airport.

"We're aware that we're facing a determined enemy," Pistole told the CBS "Early Show," noting the move aimed to ensure the safety of air cargo leaving the country once the ban on shipments is lifted.

"Even before this incident, 100 percent of identified high-risk cargo on inbound passenger planes was being screened," the TSA said in its statement.

The United States has placed a temporary ban on all air cargo shipments from Yemen to the United States after two US-bound bomb parcels flown out of Sanaa were uncovered in the plot.

Yemen meanwhile announced a security crackdown on cargo shipments after it appeared the powerful explosives addressed to Chicago area synagogues may have flown on two passenger planes and been intended to blow them up.

© 2010 AFP

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