CAIRO: An Egyptian security official says authorities have begun manually inspecting all packages being sent abroad or brought to the country aboard cargo planes, especially those coming from Yemen.
The tightened security measures follow the discovery of explosives in parcels on cargo planes in the United Arab Emirates and England that raised fears of a renewed Al-Qaeda terror offensive.
Essam Gamal, the head of the security unit at the state-run EgyptAir, says airport police started the manual searches on Saturday. He says packages are usually inspected on X-ray machines and only opened when deemed suspicious.
The mail bombs intercepted Friday had been sent from Yemen and addressed to Chicago-area synagogues.
A rabbi at one of the Chicago synagogues allegedly targeted by explosive packages from Yemen said the community’s website was visited dozens of times recently by individuals from Egypt, The Wall Street Journal reported late Saturday.
The newspaper said that Rabbi Michael Zedek from Chicago’s lakeside Emanuel Congregation had also been told by a source that there were four bombs targeting Chicago’s synagogues instead of the two originally reported.
The report came after Yemeni authorities arrested a woman suspected of sending mail bombs on two US-bound flights in an alleged Al-Qaeda plot that Britain said was aimed at blowing up at least one of the planes.
US President Barack Obama has made it clear he suspects the involvement of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemen-based branch of Osama bin Laden’s extremist network.
Zedek said that Emanuel Congregation was allegedly not the specific target of the bomb, but Congregation Or Chadash, a sister synagogue housed within Emanuel was thought to be a target, The Journal noted.
Or Chadash is a gay and lesbian synagogue, the report said.
Zedek said he had learned earlier Saturday that Emanuel’s web administrator had recently discovered that the congregation’s website had been visited 83 times on one day by somebody in Egypt, the paper said.
Zedek was concerned and questioned why anybody in Egypt would be interested in visiting Emanuel Congregation’s site.
"I think we’re interesting, but not that interesting," he is quoted by the Journal as saying. "We are planning on sharing it with the authorities."