Interrogations of suspects in Pakistan lead its investigators to believe that the alleged plot to blow up US-bound jetliners was sanctioned by the Al-Qaeda leadership, a senior intelligence official said on Thursday.
The terror group's No 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri probably cleared the plot, the official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the ongoing investigation.
The latest investigations by Pakistan also indicate that a British national arrested in Pakistan, Rashid Rauf, planned the plot and recruited people in Pakistan. He had also made contacts with people in Britain to take part, the official said.
He said Rauf was operating under an Al-Qaeda mastermind, whom the official declined to identify.
The plot to blow up as many as 10 airliners flying from Britain to the US was thwarted in Britain last week as a result of intelligence cooperation between Pakistan, Britain and the United States, officials say. Dozens of people have been arrested in Britain and Pakistan.
Pakistan's government has said that the plot was linked to Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and that Rauf was a 'key person' in the plot.