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Online shoppers face delivery delays after bomb plot

IRISH online shoppers are set to face significant delays in receiving their purchases as a result of Friday's global terror bomb scare.

A number of the big online shopping companies were attempting to assure customers that delays will not happen, but experts speaking yesterday said such interruptions are unavoidable. The discovery of US-bound mail bombs on cargo planes at East Midlands Airport, England, and at Dubai reveals the vulnerability of air shipping, which is governed by a patchwork of inconsistent controls that make packages a potential threat, even to passenger jets, experts said yesterday.

Irish consumers spent over €2.13bn on purchases from internet sites in 2009, with the average Irish shopper spending €1,450.

This is a decrease from an average of €1,700 in the previous year.

Flights and holidays are the most popular online purchase, with 83 per cent of survey respondents having paid for these via the internet last year.

Tickets for concerts, movies and other entertainment events were also popular, with 67 per cent of survey participants buying them online during the course of the year.

Yesterday, the British Home Secretary, Theresa May, said the device found on a plane at East Midlands Airport was viable and could have exploded on board an aircraft.

Speaking after a Cobra meeting, the UK government's emergency planning committee to discuss security, Ms May said, "The target may have been an aircraft and had it detonated, the aircraft could have been brought down."

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama said the discovery of two suspicious packages on cargo planes bound for America is being treated as a credible terrorist threat.

Initial examinations of the packages show they contained explosive materials.

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One of the packages was found on a United Parcel Service cargo plane which arrived at East Midlands Airport in Britain from Yemen; and the other was discovered at a FedEx Corp facility in Dubai, following a tip-off from authorities in Saudi Arabia.

They were addressed to two Jewish places of worship in Chicago. President Obama said security would be increased for air travel for as long as necessary.

Still, since August, US aviation officials have been pressing the European Union to require the X-raying of every package placed on passenger planes, but they have met resistance because of the cost and logistics involved in screening such a huge amount of material, aviation safety consultant Chris Yates said.

"Is it possible one of these devices could get on passenger jets?" Yates said.

"I'm not convinced it could on flights between London and the States, but it could get on from less secure parts of the world, including the Middle East.

"If you talk to anybody senior at airports, they will tell you freight is the weak link in the chain."

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