Washington: The United States intercepted parcels from Yemen in September thought to be a dry run for the package bomb plot, a US official said, as Western governments tightened freight security.
Two parcels addressed to Jewish institutions in Chicago and containing the lethal explosive PETN hidden in ink toner cartridges were uncovered on Thursday on cargo planes en route to the United States in Britain and Dubai.
But now it has emerged that the United States first uncovered suspicious packages from Yemen back in September and linked them "several weeks ago" to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, according to a US official.
"The boxes were stopped in transit and searched," the official told AFP confirming that the packages contained no explosives.
"At the time, people obviously took notice and -- knowing of the terrorist group`s interest in aviation -- considered the possibility that AQAP might be exploring the logistics of the cargo system," the official added.
"When we learned of last week`s serious threat, people recalled the incident and factored it in to our government`s very prompt response."
ABC News, which broke the news of the dry run, said it had been told by senior officials that ever since the September discovery US intelligence agencies had specific concerns about AQAP`s interest in Chicago.
The dry run contained household goods including books, religious literature, and a computer disk and were shipped by "someone with ties to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula," a US official told ABC.
Meanwhile, Western governments imposed new restrictions on freight in the wake of the plot, as Yemen scrambled to contain the fallout by announcing exceptional security measures on all freight leaving Yemeni airports.
A team of US experts is heading to Yemen to provide screening, training and equipment to examine cargo shipments at the main international airport in the capital Sanaa.