November 8, 2010 / 6:43 PM / in 7 years

U.S. expands cargo security ban in wake of bomb plot

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Monday banned all cargo shipments to the United States from Somalia, expanding a ban imposed initially on shipments from Yemen in the wake of a recent foiled bomb plot.

Two weeks ago, authorities in Dubai and the United Kingdom intercepted two bombs hidden in toner cartridges destined for the United States from Yemen via FedEx and United Parcel Service after a tip from Saudi Arabia.

The al Qaeda affiliate based in Yemen has claimed responsibility for the plot.

After the bombs were found, U.S. authorities quickly banned cargo shipments from Yemen and now are zeroing in on toner cartridges as the newest method for the group, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), to launch attacks against the United States.

Somalia has also been a haven for anti-American militants.

In addition to the expanded cargo ban, the Department of Homeland Security also prohibited toner and ink cartridges over 16 ounces from any U.S. passenger flights, domestic or international, bound for the United States.

“The threats of terrorism we face are serious and evolving, and these security measures reflect our commitment to using current intelligence to stay ahead of adversaries,” DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement.

The ban on toner and ink cartridges will also apply to certain international cargo flights to the United States and all cargo that is deemed high risk will have to go through additional screening, she said.

The new security measures take effect immediately. Industry carriers were advised of the new requirements last week, Napolitano said.

Last week the head of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, John Pistole, went to Yemen to meet with officials there about cargo security and toured a cargo facility in Sanaa.

TSA, which is responsible for U.S. cargo and aviation security and is part of DHS, has come under renewed scrutiny after the attempted toner cartridge bombs. Some U.S. lawmakers have called on the agency to improve screening of cargo.

The al Qaeda affiliate also claimed responsibility for the foiled bombing attempt by a Nigerian man who hid explosives in his underwear and tried to detonate them during a flight on a U.S. airliner flying from Amsterdam to Detroit last Christmas.

Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Vicki Allen

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