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All-clear at JFK after evacuation over Yemeni package

By the CNN Wire Staff
Administrator John Pistole met with Yemeni government officials on Wednesday, the TSA said.
Administrator John Pistole met with Yemeni government officials on Wednesday, the TSA said.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Package at airport had New York destination, law enforcement source says
  • Envelope contains cell phone and paperwork, NYPD says
  • An airport cargo facility is evacuated over suspicious package
  • The bomb plot discovered Friday is believed to have originated in Yemen

New York (CNN) -- An "all-clear" was given at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport Wednesday night after a DHL cargo facility there was evacuated following the discovery of a suspicious package, authorities said.

The package originated from Yemen -- the source of last week's thwarted bomb plot -- said New York Police Department Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne.

The package was an envelope containing a cell phone and paperwork, Browne said.

Investigators said they were looking at a "solid mass" in the package at JFK that showed up on an X-ray and was inconsistent with what they had been told were documents in the package.

The package was addressed to a New York destination, a law enforcement source said.

"The bomb squad was called in to check it out," the NYPD's Browne said. "It was cleared."

The package was discovered at 6:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, an official said.

FBI agents, Port Authority police and U.S. Customs and Border Protection had inspected the package "out of an abundance of caution," New York FBI spokesman Rich Kolko said.

"All clear. DHL got their signals crossed," John Kelly, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, told CNN. "All is well and over."

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A DHL spokeswoman, Beatrice Garcia, confirmed some information about the suspicious package but rejected the Port Authority's statement about the delivery company getting its signals crossed.

Senior law enforcement officials said the package was one of the more than a dozen packages from Yemen that investigators had been looking for since Friday.

At least seven other packages from that batch have been cleared by U.S. officials.

Earlier Wednesday, the head of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration visited Yemen, five days after authorities disrupted a plot to send bombs from the Middle Eastern nation to the United States, the federal agency announced.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, meanwhile, talked about cargo screening with top representatives of global shipping companies including DHL, FedEx, TNT and UPS, her department said.

She talked about "enhanced screening" after shipping companies apparently carried the bombs unawares.

She pressed home the same message in a call to the head of the International Air Transport Association, Giovanni Bisignani, the department said.

TSA Administrator John Pistole met with Yemeni government officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Rashad al-Alimi, representatives from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation and the Ministry of Interior, and U.S. ambassador Gerald Feierstein, the TSA said.

Pistole also received briefings from TSA inspectors deployed to Yemen and toured a cargo facility in Sanaa, the nation's capital.

Yemen said Monday that it is tightening security at all of its airports.

Authorities in the United Arab Emirates and Britain found two packages Friday with explosives that were destined for synagogues in Chicago, Illinois.

The explosive found in the United Arab Emirates may have traveled on passenger planes to get there, airline officials said Sunday.

Investigators in Yemen say they strongly suspect that Ibrahim Hasan al-Asiri, al Qaeda's top bomb maker in the region, is behind the explosive devices sent in the parcels.

U.S. authorities are said to be also looking at al-Asiri because the parcel bombs used the same explosive, PETN, as last year's foiled underwear bomber, also linked to him.

A 23-year-old Nigerian citizen, Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, has been charged with trying to blow up a December 25 flight from the Netherlands to Detroit, Michigan, with an explosive that was partly sewn into his underwear. A Yemen-based branch of the al Qaeda terrorist network claimed responsibility for that attempt.

After last week's incident, the TSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection took immediate steps to enhance measures for screening inbound cargo, including grounding packages originating from Yemen destined for the U.S., the TSA said. The agencies also deployed a team of inspectors to assist the government of Yemen with its cargo screening procedures.

The day before visiting Yemen, Pistole spoke to the International Air Transport Association conference in Frankfurt, Germany, met with international aviation security officials and signed an international security agreement with Germany, the TSA said.

CNN's Susan Candiotti, Deb Feyerick, Ross Levitt and Fran Townsend contributed to this report.

 
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