Cargo plane bomb plot: timeline of how the worldwide terror alert unfolded

November 1st, 2010 by Staff

Source: The Telegraph — Late – MI6 officer responsible for Yemen reportedly receives tip-off from a local source of a possible al-Qaeda plot to smuggle bombs to America on cargo aircraft.


Early hours – Suspicious package discovered at East Midlands Airport on a UPS plane, which was from Yemen and bound for Chicago in the US.

The device is later said to have been a printer toner cartridge with wires and powder, addressed to a synagogue in Chicago.

Police evacuate the centre and set up a security cordon around the airport.

10am – Police stand down cordon.

Suspicious FedEx package also apparently containing a printer cartridge found on plane in Dubai, which was flying from Yemen to Chicago.

2pm – Police reimpose security cordon at East Midlands. The move reportedly follows discovery of another suspicious device linked to a mobile phone. It is sent for detailed examination.

After 4pm – First reports emerge in UK of terror alert involving suspicious packages on cargo flights.

5.35pm – Security cordon at East Midlands Airport lifted.

5.56pm – FBI says two suspicious packages were addressed to religious buildings in Chicago.

6.55pm – It emerges US military jets are escorting an Emirates flight through US airspace which is carrying a package from Yemen.

7.35pm – Emirates flight 201 from Yemen via Dubai lands at JFK airport, New York.

7.45pm – A suspicious FedEx package that was sent from Yemen has been confiscated in Dubai, a company spokeswoman confirms.

FedEx says it has stopped all shipments from Dubai in light of the investigation into the package, and say they are liaising with the FBI.

Two other FedEx flights are investigated after landing in Philadelphia and Newark, New Jersey. Both are given the all clear.

7.53pm – Emirates airline says it is co-operating with the US authorities in the investigation of the package from Yemen on flight 201.

7.55pm – All direct flights from Yemen to the UK are suspended, Home Secretary Theresa May says.

8.35pm – John Brennan, assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for homeland security and counter-terrorism, says the packages have been isolated and “made inert”.

9.20pm – President Barack Obama makes a White House address.

He announces the existence of a “credible terrorist threat” and says two packages found in Dubai and East Midlands Airport “apparently contain explosive material”.

Mr Obama says the packages originated in Yemen and that the Yemen-based terror group al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is planning attacks against the US and its allies.

9.55pm – The explosive material is reported to be PETN, or pentaerythritol tetranitrate, a very powerful explosive.

It is the same as the material used in last year’s Christmas Day attempted bomb plot on a jet at Detroit airport.

10.57pm – The Yemeni government says in a statement it is co-operating with the US, British and Emirati authorities.

23.58pm – Theresa May confirms the suspect package found at East Midlands did contain explosive material, “but it is not yet clear that it was a viable explosive device. The forensic work continues”.

May says Cobra, the UK government’s emergency planning committee, met today and will meet again tomorrow.


10.30am – Dubai police reveal the US-bound package discovered on a plane in the emirate contained explosives and an electrical circuit linked to a mobile phone SIM card.

It was prepared in a “professional manner” and bore the hallmarks of terror groups such as al-Qaeda, the force adds.

Cobra meeting takes place in Whitehall.

2.20pm – Reports suggest investigators in the Yemeni capital Sana’a were investigating 24 other suspect packages.

2.43pm – Theresa May says the device found at East Midlands Airport was viable and could have exploded on board an aircraft.

6.48pm – Yemen’s president says a woman sent two mail bombs which were found on the cargo planes. The woman is arrested at a house in Sana’a.

7.30pm – Prime Minister David Cameron says the explosive device found hidden in a printer cartridge at East Midlands airport was apparently designed to blow the aircraft out of the sky.


Police in Yemen believe student Hanan al-Samawithe, arrested on suspicion of mailing the two explosive devices found in printer cartridges, was the victim of stolen identity and she is released on bail.

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