World News Desk

TERROR WATCH

British Police Thwart Widespread Terror Plot

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London: On August 16, terrorists planned to explode up to ten airliners flying from London to New York, Washington and California. The British government, working closely with U.S. agencies, arrested 24 suspects on Wednesday and Thursday. Authorities say the plan involved smuggling liquid explosives inside modified sports drink bottles to blow up planes in mid-flight. The suspects ranged in ages between 17 and 35, and most were of Pakistani origin.

To test the security of Britain’s airports, the terrorists were preparing to conduct a dry run of the plan a few days from when the arrests were made. Police found plane tickets for August 16 flights at the home of one of the suspects.

A U.S. intelligence officer said, “The bombers were a couple of days from a test, and a few days from doing it.”

A bulletin issued by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI stated, “This plot appears to have been well planned and well advanced and in the final stages of preparation.”

British officials said they knew the outline of the plot for several months, but held off making arrests until they could gather more information for indictments. But once investigators realized the plot was developing further, raids were immediately conducted and arrests made.

A U.S. law enforcement official stated, “It’s not like three weeks ago all of a sudden MI5 knew about this plot and went to work…They’d had a concern about these guys for some time -- for months. Details started to emerge, and it became clear over the last couple weeks the nature of the threat and the individuals.”

The British government believes the plot could include up to 50 members; 40 were arrested in Italy in follow-up raids.

Testing the patience of travelers around the world, flights arriving into London’s Heathrow Airport were canceled and departures severely delayed until full security measures could be taken. All hand luggage has been banned at Heathrow, along with most carry-on items.

Taking extra security precautions, the United States increased its terror alert level from orange to red for the first time. U.S. President George W. Bush said, “The recent arrests…are a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists…It is a mistake to believe that there is no threat to the United States of America.”

The secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, stated in a press interview, “While this operation was centered in Great Britain, it was sophisticated, it had a lot of members, and it was international in scope. This operation is, in some respects, suggestive of an al Qaeda plot, but because the investigation is still underway, we cannot yet form a definitive conclusion. We’re going to wait until all the facts are in. We believe that the arrests in Britain have significantly disrupted this major threat. But we cannot assume that the threat has been completely thwarted, or that we have fully identified and neutralized every member of this terrorist network.”

Elsewhere: The Pakistani government, coordinating with British police, conducted its own raids and arrested a number of suspects. Officials claim some of the members involved in the plot had connections to al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

The U.S. Embassy in India sent a warning to the Indian government of possible al Qaeda terrorist attacks in New Delhi and Bombay sometime before or on August 15, India’s Independence Day. American citizens were told to pay close attention to their surroundings.

Source: Daily Mail; Washington Post; CNN; Fox News; Department of Homeland Security; AP


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