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Terror Scare Puts Spotlight On Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Authorities isolated five cargo planes both locally and abroad following a scare involving suspicious packages that originated in Yemen. The White House says President Barack Obama was notified about a potential terrorist threat Thursday night after the packages were discovered aboard a plane in England and Dubai.

As a result of the discovery, additional security measures were taken and two UPS cargo planes at Philadelphia International Airport and a plane in Newark, New Jersey were detained Friday morning.

President Obama called the attacks a "credible terrorist threat."

The Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and other local and federal agencies are investigating the incidents that began when a UPS plane in East Midlands, England, and a FedEx plane in Dubai, were found to have suspicious packages on board.

"Based on close cooperation among U.S. government agencies and with our foreign allies and partners, authorities were able to identify and examine two suspicious packages," said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

The packages were found on the planes that were bound for synagogues in Chicago, Illinois and were part of approximately 10 to 20 that originated out of Yemen.

A U.S. official tells CBS News that the package on the UPS cargo plane in East Midlands contained a toner cartridge rigged to look like a device, with a syringe, white powder, wiring and cell phone components, but the device tested negative for explosives. A CBS News law enforcement source says that preliminary indications are that TATP was an identified ingredient, which was an element used by the Christmas Day bomber. TATP is a potentially potent explosive mixture that needs an ignition source to become a bomb.

East Midlands toner cartridge
This modified ink cartridge was found on a flight headed from Yemen to Chicago. Authorities say it tested negative for explosives. (credit: CBS News)

The other packages were believed to have made their way onto planes that departed Cologne, Germany en route to the United States. Two of the planes out of Cologne landed in Philadelphia Friday morning and were immediately detained and the cargo was searched.

Another plane landed at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, but the cargo was offloaded before the plane could be searched.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) released a statement and said, "Out of an abundance of caution, local law enforcement evacuated the UPS cargo facilities at both airports (Philadelphia and Newark) and the planes were moved to remote locations where they were met by law enforcement officials. After security sweeps, both planes and their cargo have been cleared."

As a precaution, authorities stopped a UPS truck on the Queensboro Bridge in New York to search the packages that were picked up at Newark airport. The truck was later cleared.

A UPS spokesperson says they are cooperating with authorities as they investigate the incidents.

At this time, there is no direct connection to the threats in Europe. Yemen remains a concern because it is the home of the al-Qaida branch that claimed responsibility for an attempted bombing of a U.S. bound airliner on Christmas day 2009.

"At this stage, the American people should know that the counter-terrorism professionals are taking this threat very seriously and are taking all necessary and prudent steps to ensure our security," President Obama said.

Operations at Philadelphia International Airport were not affected and no delays were reported.


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