President Barack Obama said two packages shipped from Yemen and directed to Jewish institutions in Chicago contained explosive materials and were intercepted.
The discovery, in the U.K. and Dubai, triggered an examination of air cargo flights in the U.S.
“The American people should know that the counterterrorism professionals are taking this threat very seriously and are taking all necessary and prudent steps to ensure our security,” Obama, who was notified of the threat last night, said in remarks at the White House.
Obama said examination of the packages showed they contained explosive material, leading the president and his top intelligence aides to conclude there is “a credible terrorist threat against our country.”
He said the U.S. is pursuing the investigations and pledged to “destroy this al-Qaeda affiliate” based in Yemen.
Authorities are investigating whether the shipments were staged as rehearsals for a future attack, a U.S. official said.
Obama’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, said the devices were “intended to do harm.”
The U.S. is giving greater scrutiny to packages from Yemen as a result, Brennan said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation checked packages on three United Parcel Service Inc. jets from Europe. Two of the planes landed in Philadelphia and another in Newark, New Jersey, UPS spokesman Mike Mangeot said today. The Newark jet was later cleared for another flight.
Brennan notified Obama at 10:35 p.m. yesterday and the administration coordinated a response with federal agencies including the Central Intelligence Agency, Homeland Security and the Federal Aviation Administration, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said after Obama spoke.
The alert on the planes comes on the heels of the arrest of a Virginia man who Justice Department prosecutors say participated in what he thought was an al-Qaeda plot to bomb subway stations in the Washington area. Farooque Ahmed, 34, of Ashburn, a U.S. citizen born in Pakistan, is being held without bail.