A commercial passenger jet carrying cargo from Yemen landed at JFK under military fighter jet escort and its cargo was searched Friday, as parcels in transit across the globe were scrutinized after authorities overseas found two explosive packages from Yemen bound for Chicago.
No explosives were found aboard Emirates Airlines Flight 201 after a search, FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said. He said the plane flew in to John F. Kennedy Airport under escort as a precaution. Earlier in the day, bomb squad searched for suspicious packages from Yemen at Newark Airport and in Brooklyn.
President Barack Obama called the coordinated attacks a "credible terrorist threat." Packages were found aboard cargo planes in Dubai and England and U.S. officials said they were increasingly confident that al-Qaida's Yemen branch was responsible.
The Emirates Airlines plane, a Boeing 777, landed shortly after 3:30 p.m. Passengers walked off the jet on two covered stairways and onto the tarmac, dragging their luggage behind them. Several police cars surrounded the airliner.
Meanwhile the plane, a Boeing 777, landed shortly after 3:30 p.m. Passengers walked off the jet on two covered stairways and then onto the tarmac, dragging their luggage behind them. Several police cars surrounded the airliner.
Kolko said the action was being taken solely because the plane, which took off from Dubai, was also carrying cargo from Yemen.
"The single piece of cargo will be examined. There is no known threat associated with this cargo," Kolko said.
Emirates said in a brief statement that it was "cooperating fully with the U.S. authorities" and would provide more information as soon as it has it available.
The flight crew didn't inform passengers of any issue with cargo while they were onboard, passenger Nick Chan said.
"We saw a lot of police and they instructed us that we would be getting on a bus. And that all our luggage would again be screened," said Chan, who was returning to Manhattan from a business trip.
Chan, 32, said passengers didn't know about the interest in their aircraft until they saw it on TV screens in the airport.
Earlier Friday, cargo jets in Philadelphia and Newark, N.J., were searched for possible suspicious packages from Yemen. No explosives were found.
The alert was sparked by a package containing a toner cartridge with wires and powder found during a routine screening of cargo in London, on a flight from Yemen bound for Chicago.
U.K. officials discovered that a toner cartridge on the plane had been manipulated and found wires attached to it and white powder. Tests on the device came back negative for explosives, according to a law enforcement official who also spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation. The packages were believed to have originated from a common mailing address in Yemen, one security official said.
Officials believed another suspicious packages was on a UPS truck in Metrotech Brooklyn. That truck was stopped and searched and has since been cleared, according to NYPD chief spokesman Paul Browne.
The Essex County Bomb Squad also removed a suspicious package from a flight at Newark Airport, the security official said. By 12:20 p.m., Newark Airport had been given the "all clear."
Authorities also said there are two UPS planes with "questionable shipments" that are being investigated at Philadelphia Airport and said the company was working with authorities.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement that Friday's searches stemmed from an incident Thursday night in which intelligence and law-enforcecment authorities discovered potentially suspicious packages on two planes in transit to the United States. One package was found in London, the other in Dubai; both originated from Yemen. President Obama was alerted to a potential "terrorist threat" that evening.
"As a result of security precautions triggered by this threat, the additional measures were taken regarding the flights at Newark Liberty and Philadelphia International Airports," Gibbs said in the statement.
"The President directed U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and the Department of Homeland Security, to take steps to ensure the safety and security of the American people, and to determine whether these threats are a part of any additional terrorist plotting."
A source familiar with the investigation says the packages from the UPS plane at Newark Airport were taken off the flight and a ground search of the ramp was conducted to make sure there's no bomb in those packages. Chopper video earlier in the day showed an isolated UPS plane on the tarmac surrounded by emergency vehicles.
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