Yemen arrests mail bomb suspect

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The Independent Online

Yemeni security forces today arrested a woman believed to be involved in sending explosive packages bound for the United States, a security official said.

The arrest was the first in the case, which has triggered an international security alert after two packages containing bombs - both sent from Yemen and addressed to synagogues in Chicago - were intercepted in Britain and Dubai.

"National security forces have just been able arrest the woman," the official said, adding that the woman had been traced through a telephone number she left with a cargo company.

Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh said earlier that security forces had surrounded a house at an undisclosed location where a young woman believed to have sent the packages was taking refuge. He gave no other details about the woman.

"Yemen is determined to continue fighting terrorism and al-Qa'ida in cooperation with its partners. But we do not want anyone to interfere in Yemeni affairs by hunting down al-Qa'ida," Saleh said in a brief appearance to journalists, who were not given an opportunity to ask questions.

Saleh also said Yemen would be grateful for more cooperation with the US, British and Saudi governments on intelligence, saying there was a lack of coordination with their security agencies.

Britain said it believed the device found on Friday aboard a cargo plane at its East Midlands airport was a viable bomb, big enough to bring down an aircraft and designed to go off on board.

"We believe the device was designed to go off on the aeroplane. We cannot be sure about the timing when that was meant to take place," Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters.

The White House said Saudi Arabia had helped to identify the threat from Yemen, while Britain and the United Arab Emirates had also provided information.

Officials said the parcel bombs had the hallmarks of al-Qa'ida, and in particular its Yemen branch, al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula. At least one of them included PETN, the explosive used in a failed attempt to blow up a US jetliner on Christmas Day last year.

In Washington, US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said authorities were checking whether other packages had been sent before the two that were intercepted.

"We're doing some reverse engineering, as it were, to identify other packages from Yemen," she said on NBC News.

President Barack Obama, addressing the nation on Friday, said US authorities would spare no effort to find the source of the packages, which he called a "credible terrorist threat".

Obama called Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and Cameron on Saturday to discuss the plot, the White House said.

One of the packages was found on a United Parcel Service cargo plane at East Midlands Airport, north of London. The other was discovered hidden in a computer printer cartridge at a FedEx Corp facility in Dubai.

Dubai's civil aviation authority said the package found in Dubai had been brought in on a Qatar Airways plane that had stopped over in the Qatari capital Doha.

UPS and FedEx, the world's largest cargo airline, halted shipments from Yemen and on Saturday Yemen shut down both companies' operations there, citing security concerns.

Britain halted all air freight from Yemen.

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