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Officials examine suspicious packages in US, UK

30 October, 2010

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PHILADELPHIA: A suspicious package containing a toner cartridge with wires and powder was found during routine screening of cargo in the United Kingdom, prompting authorities to scour three planes and a truck in the United States on Friday.

Searches were conducted in the northeastern cities of Philadelphia, Newark, New Jersey, and New York City.

During a basic security screening process in the United Kingdom, officials found a suspicious item on a cargo plane, according to a US government official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.

UK officials discovered that a toner cartridge on the plane had been manipulated and found wires attached to it and white powder. Tests on the device came back negative for explosives, according to a law enforcement official who also spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation.

Concerns about the possibility of similar and potentially dangerous devices shipped elsewhere prompted officials to check other cargo headed to the US.

Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Kristin Lee says the planes in Philadelphia and Newark were being swept. The planes were moved away from terminal buildings so law enforcement officials could investigate.

The Philadelphia jet belonged to UPS. A source with knowledge of the situation who was not authorized to speak said officials in Newark were examining a UPS package.

In New York City, police responded to reports of a possible explosive in a UPS truck, top NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said. Browne said the package was removed and was being examined in Brooklyn.

Mike Mangeot, a spokesman for Atlanta-based United Parcel Service Inc., said two planes in Philadelphia that had come from Cologne, Germany, and Paris were being investigated.

“Out of an abundance of caution, those aircraft have been isolated, and they are looking into the shipments in question there,” he said.

A third plane had arrived in Newark, New Jersey, from East Midlands airport in England. That plane was cleared and flew to UPS’ main hub in Louisville, Kentucky, on its usual route, Mangeot said.

In central England, police had evacuated a freight distribution building at East Midlands Airport after a suspicious package was reported at 3:30 a.m. Police and emergency workers examined the package and lifted the security cordon by midmorning, but Leicestershire Constabulary later said officers were re-examining it “as a precaution.”

Sarah Furbank, a passenger who was about to board a plane out of East Midlands Airport, said that she had noticed an increased security presence.

There were “quite a few police cars round the edge” of the airport, Furbank told The Associated Press. “Apparently there was an incident earlier according to staff but they didn’t go into detail.”

End.

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