Archive | October, 2010

Honduras: Drug Gangs Suspected In Murder Of 14 On Sports Field

31 Oct

14 people massacred at football match in Honduras

Gunmen opened fire on a group of people on a neighbourhood sports field in northern Honduras and killed at least 14, authorities said on Saturday.

“There are 14 dead. Ten were killed on the field and four more died on their way to the hospital,” Leonel Sauceda, a spokesman for Honduras’ Security Ministry, told Reuters.

The armed men arrived in two vehicles with large guns and started shooting at a group that was preparing for a soccer match in San Pedro Sula, a major hub for the country’s textile industry located about 100 miles (165 km) north of Tegucigalpa.

It was not immediately clear what triggered the attack, but the area is home to violent rival gangs often involved in drug trafficking.

Newspaper El Tiempo showed a picture of bloody bodies being piled in the back of a pick-up truck.

In September, 17 people were killed by hit men belonging to street gangs connected to violent Mexican drug cartels.

Battling street gangs and competing cartels have led to a sharp escalation of violent crime in Honduras in recent years.

San Pedro Sula is in a region where drug gangs are known to refine cocaine before it heads to markets in the United States.

(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia, writing by Cyntia Barrera Diaz, editing by Stacey Joyce)

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London: Schools Urged To Tackle Knife Crime

31 Oct

Actress Brooke Kinsella has called for knife crime awareness to be part of the national curriculum.

Schools urged to tackle knife crime:

The former EastEnders star – whose 16-year-old brother Ben was stabbed to death in 2008 – said she thought the most effective way of tackling the issue was through the classroom.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, she said: “I am now hoping to set up a conference with as many head teachers as possible to persuade them to begin crime awareness and prevention lessons.

“I hope the message will be part of the national curriculum.”

Ms Kinsella began working with the Tories before the election on knife crime, and spent July and August talking to project leaders and community workers about the issue.

The actress said: “Many of the young people I met have no idea of how serious carrying a knife is. They don’t realise how easy it is to die from a stab wound.

“Most of the kids out there are basically good and would be better with a bit of guidance.

“In the long term…I am convinced that the most effective way of tackling the problem is in the classroom.

“Although projects often volunteer to hold workshops in schools, the schools themselves are reluctant because they’re worried about sending out the wrong message that knife crime is a problem among their pupils.”

Her brother died on June 29 after a fight in a bar spilled out on to the streets in Islington, north London. He had been celebrating the end of his GCSEs.

BREAKING NEWS: Yemen: Woman Suspect Arrested Over Bombs On Cargo Aircraft

31 Oct

A plane takes off from Dubai airport this afternoon as security forces in Yemen, the US and UK search for those behind a plot to bomb Jewish targets in the US using parcels posted from Yemen. Photograph: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters

A plane takes off from Dubai airport this afternoon as security forces in Yemen, the US and UK search for those behind a plot to bomb Jewish targets in the US using parcels posted from Yemen. Photograph: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters

A huge anti-terror probe into the cargo plane bomb plot has intensified after the arrest of a suspect in Yemen.

Woman held over cargo plane bombs:

Plane bomb ‘a viable device’

Prime Minister David Cameron said the explosive device found on a US-bound flight at East Midlands Airport was designed to blow a jet out of the sky – possibly over Britain.

He was speaking as police in Yemen arrested a woman on suspicion of sending the two mail bombs and hunted more suspects linked to terror group al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Explosives hidden in printer cartridges were found on cargo planes in the UK and Dubai on Friday, sparking a huge search for other devices. The two discoveries originated in Yemen, a key front in the fight against terrorism, and are believed to have contained the powerful explosive PETN.

Mr Cameron said of the British find: “We believe that the device was designed to go off on the aeroplane. We cannot be sure about the timing when that was meant to take place. There is no early evidence it was designed to take place over British soil, but of course we cannot rule that out.”

Speaking at Chequers ahead of a meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel, he confirmed he had spoken to US president Barack Obama, adding: “I have also spoken to President (Ali Abdullah) Saleh of the Yemen making the point that we have to do even more to crack down and cut out the cancer of al Qaida in Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula.

“We have immediately banned packages coming to or through Britain from the Yemen and we will be looking extremely carefully at any further steps we have to take.”

Yemeni officials said they were hunting a number of suspects who are believed to have been using forged documents and ID cards and to be linked to AQAP.

The arrest came after Yemeni security forces surrounded a house in the capital Sana’a where a young woman was hiding. She is a medical student and her mother also was detained, according to reports. Yemeni authorities were also investigating 24 other suspect packages, according to a security official, as well as questioning cargo workers at the airport and employees of the local shipping companies.

Speaking on Saturday, after a Cobra meeting of the UK Government’s emergency planning committee, Home Secretary Theresa May announced the UK device was “viable” and “could have exploded”.

County Louth: Gardai Hunt For Two Men After Ardee Shooting

31 Oct

Two men are being hunted over the murder of another man during a vicious row on a housing estate.

Two hunted over Ardee shooting:

The victim, Stephen Hanaphy, 20, was thought to be one of four men from Coolock, in Dublin, involved in a row with two other men in Ardee, Co Louth on Friday night.

Detectives believe a gang travelled to a house at Sliabh Breagh in the town, where they smashed in back windows and forced their way in at around 11pm.

A number of shots were fired at the intruders, from either a handgun or rifle, and the four men fled the scene in different directions.

It is believed Mr Hanaphy, who was hit by a single shot above the heart, collapsed and died under a tree on a green area about 300 metres from the house. His body was discovered shortly after 4am.

Another man presented himself to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin this morning with a gunshot wound to his arm.

It is understood his injuries are not life threatening. Detectives are interviewing him about the incident.

They are also looking to speak to two settled Travellers who are believed to have fled the house. The scene was sealed off for technical examination by Garda forensic experts.

Deputy state pathologist Dr Kahlid Jabbar carried out a preliminary post mortem examination before the body was taken to Dublin for a full autopsy.

Detectives said they were investigating all the circumstances surrounding the incident. They were carrying out door to door inquiries on the housing estate. They also appealed for anyone who was in the area from 10pm on Friday or anyone with information to contact them.

www.garda.ie

KABUL, Afghanistan: US & Russian Forces Team-Up For $56m Heroin Bust

30 Oct

AP – FILE – In this July 26, 2010 file photo, Viktor Ivanov, head of the Russian anti-narcotics agency speaks …
By KATHARINE HOURELD, Associated Press Katharine Houreld, Associated Press:

KABUL, Afghanistan – Russian counternarcotics agents teamed up with U.S. and Afghan forces in an unprecedented joint raid that destroyed nearly $56 million worth of heroin near the Pakistani border, officials said Friday.

The seizure of four drug labs nestled in thick vegetation along a dusty gray moonscape in Nangarhar province came less than a week after Russia’s anti-narcotics chief accused the U.S. of failing to dismantle such labs and slow down the flow of heroin into Russia.

The 932 kilograms (about one ton) confiscated in Thursday’s raid is unlikely to have a significant impact on Afghanistan’s drug trade. The country produces enough raw opium to manufacture 360 tons of heroin a year, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

But the level of cooperation between U.S. and Russian forces was significant and suggested an improvement in relations between the former Cold War foes, two decades after U.S.-financed Afghan militias chased the Soviet military out of this country.

The two nations nowadays occasionally cooperate on terrorism and drug issues, but Moscow has offered only lukewarm support for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. So far, Russia has limited itself to providing its territory for U.S. military transit, turning down requests to provide helicopters and training for pilots or to train counter-narcotics police.

Nevertheless, the export of Afghan drugs is an issue of paramount concern to Russia, which now has 2 million opium and heroin addicts. Moscow had been urging the U.S. military to take action against Afghan drug labs, which process unrefined opium into heroin or morphine.

Nine helicopters and 70 men were involved in the raid, said Russian anti-narcotics chief Viktor Ivanov, adding that his agency told the U.S. where the labs were located.

Ivanov said four Russians were involved in the raid, and that Russia may increase the number of its drug agents in Afghanistan in the future.

Photos shot at the scene and provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency show men in military uniform carrying metal canisters across a drab landscape. Stacks of brown sacks lie near basins with white residue and oil drums painted black.

An Afghan official said the labs were in a narrow valley high up in the mountains. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Four labs were shut down in the operation, which involved three branches of Afghan law enforcement as well as NATO, the U.S. and the Russians, said U.S. embassy spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden in Kabul. A DEA press release said the raid originally targeted one lab but then found three others hidden by vegetation.

In addition to the 932 kilograms of heroin, agents seized 156 kilograms of opium in the raid in the village of Zerasari, part of the district of Achin. It takes about 10 tons of opium to make one ton of heroin.

U.S. officials said the heroin had a street value of $55.9 million. Ivanov gave much higher figures: He was quoted by Russian media as saying the seized drugs were worth at least $250 million and probably even up to $1 billion.

Last weekend Ivanov used an interview with The Associated Press to criticize the U.S. for not taking action to stem a flow of Afghan heroin into Russia. He said that months ago he provided U.S. officials in Kabul with the coordinates of 175 laboratories where heroin is processed but that the U.S. failed to act.

In the interview, he said American officials had told him they were awaiting U.S. military approval to raid the labs.

On Friday, a senior Russian lawmaker hailed the drug bust. Mikhail Margelov, the Kremlin-connected head of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of Russian parliament, said it showed that efforts to reset U.S.-Russian relations are finally being backed by real action.

Analysts said it will take fundamental reforms rather than just drug busts to shut down Afghanistan’s multibillion dollar drug industry. U.S. officials have argued that destruction of poppy fields would drive Afghan farmers who had no other employment into the arms of the Taliban.

One fundamental problem are links between drug networks and officials in the Afghan government, rated the second most corrupt in the world.

“A broad range of authoritative international sources indicates these networks are at times aided by Afghan government officials who are little bothered by the Western-led counternarcotics efforts,” analyst George Gavrilis argued earlier this year in a paper for the Council on Foreign Relations.

“Afghanistan’s drug industry remains intact and very likely to undermine new anti-corruption efforts by international donors and agencies,” wrote Gavrilis, an assistant professor of international relations at the University of Texas at Austin.

___

Associated Press writers Kathy Gannon in Kabul, Michael J. Sniffen in Washington and David Nowak and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this story.

Afghanistan Video:7News: Govt pays Afghan civilians Australia 7 News

UPDATE:

Multi-National Operation Nets $55.9 Million Heroin Seizure in Afghanistan
First-ever joint mission for DEA, Afghan, and Russian drug agents nets nearly one metric ton of drugs

OCT 29 — A multinational DEA operation led to the seizure of $55.9 million in heroin at four clandestine laboratories located in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. The nearly one metric ton of narcotics was seized as a result of a large-scale joint narcotics enforcement operation by DEA, Afghan, and Russian anti-drug agents in Afghanistan.

Members of the U.S. military’s 101st Airborne Division, along with ISAF, took part in “Operation Tar Pit.”

Acting on DEA intelligence, the multinational task force was able to identify a major clandestine heroin laboratory in the Zerasari Village of the Achin District. Upon arrival at the site, agents discovered three additional labs hidden by vegetation. Evidence collected confirmed that all of the labs were actively producing heroin and morphine.

“Thanks to the close cooperation among DEA, Afghan, and Russian anti-drug personnel as well as U.S. Military and ISAF in Afghanistan, one metric ton of heroin was seized from four clandestine laboratories along with various precursor chemicals. Operation Tar Pit was a significant enforcement success due to the fearsome force multiplier arrayed against the narco-traffickers and insurgents,” said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “This nearly $60 million worth of heroin seized in Afghanistan will never find its way to vulnerable communities around the world.”

In addition to 932 kilograms of heroin and 156 kilograms of opium seized, the following precursor chemicals and materials were also confiscated: 10 liters of acetic anhydride, 15 kilograms of ammonium chloride, 10 kilograms of soda ash, 40 kilograms of charcoal, two mechanical heroin presses, three metal industrial cooking vats, and 500 feet of plastic irrigation equipment.‪

An investigation into the drug trafficking organization responsible for operating the clandestine heroin labs is ongoing.

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Ireland’s Criminal Cannabis Growing Industry Exposed

30 Oct

 

Fertiliser in the bathroom. Industrial vitamins and minerals increase the THC content of the plants

INSIDE A GROW HOUSE: Signs of life upstairs in a grow house in a middle-class south Dublin suburb

Saplings are kept in boxes, ready for a new crop; the latest harvest is packed into one-kilo sacks for sale

A speedily vacated bedroom in the grow house where a suspected gang member slept

The rows of cannabis plants grow under suspended heaters, around the bedroom’s basin and mirror

Cannabis plants bloom in the warmth of a brightly-lit bedroom insulated with layers of foil

Socket boards installed by the gang to power the heaters used to help cultivate the cannabis plants

A room after being emptied of cannabis plants, with heaters and foil insulation still in place.

————-

Criminal gangs have been setting up cannabis-growing cottage industries in Irish suburbs, renting expensive houses and installing sophisticated irrigation and heat lamps to net crops worth up to €280,000 in eight weeks. CONOR LALLY , Crime Correspondent, THE IRISH TIMES  reports on the lucrative drug cultivation under our noses.

IT’S MID-AFTERNOON when the illegal Vietnamese immigrant hears the noise he has been dreading. Someone is banging on the hall door, trying to rouse the occupants of the house. The caller’s efforts continue for a few minutes. It’s the landlord. With no sign of life in the rented house he decides to let himself in. Hearing the key in the lock, the Vietnamese man decides to bolt. He flees through a back window and down the streets of this middle-class south Dublin suburb.

As the landlord pushes open the hall door he sees that things are not quite as they should be. He sees wires running from the ESB meter through the hallway. As he follows the cables upstairs he notices a makeshift wooden panel nailed to the landing wall. It is covered in sockets from which dozens of wires run into the bedrooms.

A maze of small tubes also runs into the bedrooms from the bathroom. As the landlord pushes the doors open he can hardly believe his eyes. There before him, in the house he rents out in the middle of Rathfarnham, are rows and rows of cannabis plants, 500 in all, each about a metre high.

He has just discovered one of Ireland’s cannabis grow houses, in his own house. The man who has just fled was tending to the lucrative crop on behalf of one of the Vietnamese-led international crime gangs now operating here. The landlord contacts the Garda Síochána and reports his find.

Later that evening news filters through of the discovery of another, unrelated, grow house to the west of the city, in Lucan.

A total of 700 plants, at varying stages of maturity, are found in the two houses, valued at more than €300,000. It has been another busy day for Operation Nitrogen. Run by the Garda National Drugs Unit, it aims to catch the newest entrepreneurs on the illicit drugs scene, the grow-house gangs. Since July the detectives working on Nitrogen have discovered cannabis plants valued at more than €4 million in 15 grow houses in at least nine counties. Over the past two years finds of plants and drugs have been made in at least 19 counties, with a total value of close to €10 million. But those in the know concede that the finds most likely represent only a tiny proportion of this Vietnamese-dominated trade.

Several gangs have seen a number of their grow houses raided recently by the Garda. Detectives believe some of the grow-house gangs are dealing in cannabis herb to the same extent and value as the hauls of harder drugs sold by the major gangland Irish players in Dublin and Limerick.”

When Garda sources speak of the grow-house culture they conjure up a picture of shady and sophisticated international criminal networks growing lucrative crops of cannabis so high in quality that they have effectively redefined the Irish cannabis market in production methods, pricing and availability.

The Vietnamese-run gangs produce herbal cannabis for smoking that is three times more potent than cannabis resin. The process of harvesting the mature plants from the grow houses is simple: they are cut down and dried, pressed into slabs and packed into bags. They are then sold in wholesale quantities to Irish gangs for the domestic market or exported to gangs overseas.

Unlike cannabis resin, the cannabis herb cultivated in the grow houses does not have to be processed. It is sold on the streets in single-gram quantities for between €12 and €20. It is mostly mixed with tobacco and smoked.

“The potency of cannabis is all in the tetrahydrocannabinol content,” says a Garda source with expertise in the cannabis trade. “With cannabis resin the THC content is around 5 per cent, but with the herb from the grow houses it’s 10 to 15 per cent – much stronger. So the demand from users is high.”

Another Garda source is more blunt: “Around four or five years ago you couldn’t give this stuff away in Ireland. We had a street value on it of around €2,500 per kilo a few years ago, but that’s now as high as €14,000 per kilo.”

A typical crop found in a standard-sized house would number 400 to 500 plants. These would be capable of generating up to 20kg of cannabis, with a street value of €280,000.

In sophisticated grow houses, where growing is at maximum intensity, a single crop can be produced from sapling to harvest in eight weeks. This means a grow house producing one crop after another uninterrupted for a year could produce drugs with a street value of €1.8 million.

But most grow houses discovered by gardaí have contained a crop near maturity and a second young crop already under way. This process means a single house can produce a crop more often than once every eight weeks, driving the output of one operation close to €2.5 million a year. One grow house discovered recently had been operating for two years before it was detected.

To establish a grow house the gangs must start by finding a suitable property. They favour detached houses in middle-class suburbs, where they believe neighbours will be less nosy and Garda patrols less frequent. They also use isolated houses in rural areas, where their operations are less likely to be detected.

The recession means there is an abundance of vacant properties. Gardaí say that, because properties are harder to rent, the vetting of tenants by both landlords and letting agencies has become lax. “In some of the houses we’ve raided we’ve found very poor-quality false IDs under fake names and with references written by people with broken English,” said one Garda source.

Once a house is rented the gangs quickly go about setting up their cultivation systems. Heat lamps, with high-wattage bulbs that mimic the sun’s light and intensity, are installed. These are often suspended on metal chains that gang members fix to bedroom ceilings. Plastic sheeting is usually placed on the bedroom floors to catch any splashes from the watering systems.

Reflective sheeting, usually tin foil, is used to cover the walls. This reflects all of the light from the high-intensity lamps, generating the very warm and bright environment needed to grow the plants in an eight-week cycle. Rows and rows of potted cannabis plants are then set out in straight lines across the bedroom floors. The plants come in both female and male varieties; the gangs favour the female, because it is more productive than the slower and smaller male.

Once the pots are in place the gangs go to work in the upstairs bathroom. They fill the bath with water and pour into it a mix of industrial vitamins and minerals that will greatly aid the plants’ growth and increase the THC content. “The chemicals would be the kind of stuff legitimate people, such as firms growing crops of flowers, would use,” says one source.

Tiny tubes are then run from the bath into the bedrooms. The tubes are run over the rows of pots and punctured with small holes at the points where they pass over each plant. A timer-operated pump is then placed in the bath and connected to the network of tubes. It pumps precise quantities of vitamin-enriched water on to the plants at the right times for growing the crop as quickly as possible.

The lights shining on the crops often operate on timers. “They usually go for 16 hours a day, with eight hours of darkness because you have to let the plants rest,” says one Garda source.

If both lights and water are operated by timer the gang cultivating the crop needs to call to a grow house only a couple of times each week to check the process. “This reduces the chances of being caught and means they don’t have to pay somebody to stay there all the time,” says a source.

The blinds and curtains are kept closed in the bedrooms where plants are grown. Growers often tack blackout canvas over the drawn curtains, so the bright lights shining on the cannabis cannot be seen from outside the property.

The gangs use huge quantities of electricity but don’t pay for it. They tap into the main live power cable in a house just before it runs into the meter. Once into the live cable they run a secondary wire from it. This is run into a makeshift fuse board, which is usually mounted on an upstairs wall. To this board they fix numerous sockets, from which the lamps and irrigation pumps are run.

Gardaí say that the alternative wiring systems installed into grow houses are of an excellent standard. “The gangs bring in experts to set everything up: these are not fellas chancing their arms.”

The national grid is not sophisticated enough to pinpoint a property using industrial levels of power – as grow houses do – in dwellings where the power meter has been bypassed. Garda sources also say that the gangs’ wiring systems are sophisticated enough to mean that original power points continue to work and show a reading on the meter.

“If they put on the kettle or a light, it all still works and it still shows on the meter,” says a source. “So they can’t be detected through using far too much electricity and they won’t arouse the ESB’s suspicion by using no power at all.”

The smell generated in the intense cannabis-growing environment is very strong, so the criminals tape around the edges of all windows to keep the odour in. They then install ventilation units that suck in the house air and have filters to cleanse it. Some of the houses have a unit in every room where plants are growing. The clean air is pumped out of the property through tubes that are run up the chimney. This means the air pumped from the house will not smell foul enough to arouse suspicion, even in densely populated areas.

Sources point out that the equipment used by the gangs – lamps, chemicals, tin foil and plastic sheeting – is freely and legally available because it is all used in legal indoor cultivation, such as growing flowers for sale.

The consequences of houses being turned into growing facilities can be devastating for unsuspecting landlords. Often the watering systems leak on to floorboards and down into the plaster of the ceilings in rooms below, ruining both. Ceilings in bedrooms are also ruined by the fixing of the heavy chains from which the lights are hung.

A wiring system that has been bypassed is often classified as unsafe by the ESB, meaning that a property has to be rewired throughout. Wall surfaces, too, are often destroyed as the gangs cut into plasterboard to install their own fuse boards and hammer in cables. “A house is uninhabitable for a while after one of these things is found,” says a Garda source.

The same source says that the demise of head shops is likely to drive demand for herbal cannabis. “You would have had people who may have never bought drugs before going into the head shops because they were legal. But now that avenue for cheap legal highs is closed we think cannabis is the product they will most likely turn to. The potency of the stuff from grow houses is very high, and there’s an apathy towards cannabis across most societies anyway.”

Another source says that the recession, coupled with the financial return from grow-house operations, means it is only a matter of time before Irish gangs seek to join the Vietnamese criminals who currently dominate Irish drug cultivation.

“A lot of the Irish organised-crime gangs have bought houses that are now in negative equity, or they’ve hidden their money by buying new cars they can’t sell from the garages they’re aligned to. Other gangs have loaned money to legitimate business people who simply can’t pay it back.

“The gangs’ lack of cash means they don’t have the money to buy huge hauls of cocaine like they did before. So we expect these gangs to start going into the grow-house game to start raising money. That’ll most likely be the next development.”

Pot of gold Why the grow-house gangs like the Republic 

The Vietnamese gangs operating cannabis grow houses in Ireland first started growing crops in residential dwellings in Canada in the late 1990s. In 2000 or so the grow houses began springing up across continental Europe, spreading westwards and finally reaching Britain and Northern Ireland about six years ago.

The first grow houses in the Republic appeared in Co Monaghan in the summer of 2008. Two rural properties were found to contain plants valued at €400,000, growing in a sophisticated facility run from Belfast by an Asian gang. The period since July has seen record finds of the grow houses, involving plants valued at more than €4 million.

One major attraction for those behind the operations is that they can both grow and sell the drugs in the Republic, without the need to move hauls in risky journeys across international borders.

Since last year facilities have been found in counties Dublin, Donegal, Meath, Cork, Tipperary, Carlow, Wicklow, Roscommon, Galway, Kerry, Leitrim, Cavan and Clare.

Gardaí have now put heat-seeking equipment into the cameras on the Garda helicopter so that they can detect the intense heat coming from the grow houses.

Some of the facilities in Dublin have been located in sprawling period properties set on their own land in suburbs such as Foxrock, Blackrock, Rathfarnham and Stillorgan. “They are literally where you would least expect to find them,” says a Garda source.

In most of the houses detected, the people tending the crops, known as gardeners, have been found on the properties during Garda raids. One of these has claimed that she was trafficked into the Republic and forced to work as a gardener.

Although gardaí have not encountered any serious violence linked to the grow-house gangs here, the experience of the UK, where gangs have been operating for much longer, suggests that they are major gangland entities.

A report by the UK’s Association of Chief Police Officers found that the gangs are involved in gunrunning, extortion, human trafficking (including child trafficking), prostitution, money laundering, tobacco smuggling and kidnapping.

Many gangs in the UK set booby traps in their grow houses, aimed at electrocuting anyone who tries to break in to steal their crop.

www.garda.ie

INTERNATIONAL TERROR ALERT AFTER EXPLOSIVES ARE FOUND ON AIRCRAFT IN BRITAIN & DUBAI: UPDATED

30 Oct

A major international terror alert is in place after explosive devices were found on planes at airports in Britain and Dubai.

Terror alert after explosives found Enlarge photo

Obama calls Yemen packages ‘credible terrorist threat’

Explosives in U.S.-bound parcels from Yemen – Obama 

Plot methods being discussed by militants online

Security staff found printer cartridges with wires attached at cargo hubs at East Midlands Airport in the UK and Dubai, reportedly containing the powerful explosive PETN, or pentaerythritol tetranitrate.

The packages were addressed to synagogues in Chicago and were on Chicago-bound cargo planes that had set off from Yemen in the Middle East.

US president Barack Obama said he was dealing with a “credible terrorist threat” and was combating plots by Yemeni terror group al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

Home Secretary Theresa May confirmed the package at East Midlands did contain explosive material, but said it was not yet clear whether it was a “viable explosive device”. Forensic experts are still examining the find.

Ms May said Cobra, the UK government’s emergency planning committee, met on Friday following the discovery and would meet again on Saturday. All direct flights from Yemen to the UK had been suspended, she added.

The suspicious package in Britain was on a UPS plane that flew in from Yemen capital Sana’a. It was discovered in the early hours of Friday following a tip-off from Saudi intelligence sources. Police evacuated the centre and put up a security cordon around the airport.

It was lifted at 10am, only to be reimposed four hours later. That reportedly followed the discovery of another suspicious device linked to a mobile phone, which was taken away by police for tests.

The device in Dubai was found at courier giant FedEx‘s hub in the emirate. FedEx subsequently stopped all shipments from Dubai and said it was liaising with the FBI.

Earlier this year, the US and Britain temporarily closed embassies in the Yemeni capital over fears of a terrorist attack. A Yemen-based offshoot of al Qaida was suspected of being behind the alleged Christmas Day bomb attempt on a jet flying to Detroit.

UPDATE:

Two bombs have been found on US-bound planes in Britain and Dubai sparking a major terror alert on both sides of the Atlantic.

Terror Alert: Bombs On US-Bound Planes Play video  

Suspect Packages Found On US-Bound Planes Play video

Terror Alert: Bombs On US-Bound Planes Enlarge photo

US Fighter Jets Escorting Passenger Plane To US Enlarge photo

(Watch updates live on skynews.com/liveplus).

American President Barack Obama said it was a “credible” terror threat and he had told officials to take “whatever measures were necessary” to protect the US.

“Although we are still pursuing all the facts, we do know that the packages originated in Yemen,” he added.

“We also know that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap), a terrorist group based in Yemen, continues to plan attacks against our homeland, our citizens, and our friends and allies.”

US officials said the devices contained the same explosive used by the Christmas Day pants bomber who tried to bring a plane down over Detroit.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was trained at a terror camp in Yemen.

The White House said the packages were found after a tip-off from Saudi Arabia. 

The first bomb was discovered on a United Parcel Service jet, which had stopped to refuel at East Midlands Airport in the UK while flying from Yemen to Chicago.

It was a converted ink toner cartridge, containing white powder, and had wires sticking out from the top.

The British Government has now stopped all flights landing in the UK from Yemen.

The second explosive was found on a plane in Dubai, which had also flown from Yemen and was on its way to the US.

The packages were addressed to two synagogues in Chicago.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) had warned Jewish communities in the US about packages sent from overseas – particularly from Britain, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

There were reports that up to 20 similar suspect packages had been sent from Yemen’s capital Sana’a to synagogues in the US.

Sky’s foreign affairs editor Tim Marshall said: “Despite one device being found in the East Midlands, it’s pretty clear now this is not about the UK – it’s about sending a message to the US that ‘we can reach you’.”

He said the terror plot was also no doubt designed to create fear in Western countries, and million of dollars worth of damage to the cargo industry.

Earlier, fighter jets escorted an Emirates flight from Dubai into John F Kennedy Airport.

FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said the action was taken because the Boeing 777 was carrying cargo from Yemen.

Sky sources said security officials are checking to see whether any other planes are carrying packages from Yemen.

Sky’s crime correspondent Martin Brunt said the UK package was found on the cargo plane at about 3.30am on Thursday morning.

“The package was checked and at some stage was given the all-clear because the plane was allowed to continue its flight to North America,” he added.

“For some reason this package was revisited and then concern grew again – so much so that for the last 12 hours or so this police operation has continued.”

Mr Obama said he was told of a “potential terrorist threat” from Yemen late on Thursday night.

After the alert, two UPS planes were searched at Philadelphia International Airport. One had flown in from Paris, France, the other from Cologne, Germany.

Another UPS plane was searched at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. It had taken off from East Midlands Airport.

Two vehicles in New York City were also investigated, as well as a backpack found in a shrubbery outside a court in Portland, Maine.

Terrorism expert Neil Livingstone told Fox News: “Clearly they probably had some intelligence that indicated there were going to be bombs placed on cargo planes and they’ve been able to mobilise very quickly to deal with likely flights.

“The cargo hold has always been of great concern in cargo planes because we’ve never really got our arms around the security of those planes.”

This week there was a row over airline security when Martin Broughton, the chairman of British Airways, said Britain should stop “kowtowing” to stringent US security demands.