Officials: Investigators Nearly Missed 1 Bomb

This undated photo released by the Dubai Police via the state Emirates News Agency (WAM) on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010, reportedly shows a computer printer and other contents of a package found onboard a cargo plane coming from Yemen, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. AP Photo/Dubai Police

One of the two powerful bombs shipped from Yemen to Chicago-area synagogues nearly slipped past investigators even after they were tipped off, a U.S. official and a British security consultant said Sunday.

The near-miss shows that the suspected al Qaeda bomb was sophisticated enough to escape notice. It also shows how close terrorists came to getting the explosives airborne and bound for the U.S.

Intelligence officials were tipped off to a pair of explosive packages on planes in England and the United Arab Emirates early Friday morning.

After a six-hour sweep of cargo at the East Midlands airport in central England, Leicestershire police came up empty and removed the security perimeter they had set up, British aviation safety consultant Chris Yates said.

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But when officials in Dubai said they had discovered a bomb disguised as a computer printer cartridge, authorities urged the British to look again, a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.

"As a direct consequence, they put the cordon back up again and looked again and found the explosives," said Yates, relying on a report given to him by an eyewitness to the searches.

President Barack Obama's counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, called it "a very sophisticated device, in terms of how it was constructed, how it was concealed."

"It was a viable device. It was self-contained, so it could have been detonated and activated," Brennan told NBC television's "Meet the Press," adding that officials are trying to determine whether the planes or the synagogues were the intended targets.

On Friday evening, the Leicestershire police handed control of the investigation to the Metropolitan Police, the London-based agency also known as Scotland Yard.

Leicestershire police declined to answer questions Sunday about the searches, referring callers to Scotland Yard, which traditionally takes the lead in major terrorism cases in Britain.

More on Terror Packages:

Security Gaps Plague Cargo Shipping
Explosives Found on Planes Amid U.S. Terror Probe
PETN Explosive a Favorite of Terrorists
Obama Won't Change Travel Plans in Light of Threat

More on Yemen:

Yemen: The Next Front Line Against al Qaeda
Yemen Eyed as Source of Suspicious Packages
Yemen Downplays Report of Radical Cleric Cornered
C.I.A. Drones May Target Yemen Terrorists
Concern Over Yemen Terror
CIA: Al Qaeda in Yemen Now Biggest Threat
By Associated Press writers Matt Apuzzo and Gregory Katz
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