The teenage son of a Muslim immigrant from India and suspected Al-Qaeda leader in Britain are among the 24 people arrested in connection with the foiled plot to blow up the US-bound planes from the UK, according to a media report.
Seventeen-year-old Abdul Patel, the youngest among the suspects held last Thursday, is the son of a Muslim immigrant from India, the report said. Patel was one of the 19 suspects who were named and whose assets were frozen by Bank of England.
Also, Scotland Yard believes that one of those arrested is Al-Qaeda's leader in Britain and has been acting as a suspected hub in a network of extremist groups, including Kashmiri and north African groups based in London, The Sunday Times reported but could not name the suspect due to legal reasons.
Quoting Home Office officials, it said one of those arrested is suspected not only of masterminding the foiled plot to bomb the US-bound flights, but also of involvement in other planned atrocities over the past few years.
They believe that he was instrumental in sending the ringleader of at least one previous British terror plot for training at a camp in Pakistan last year. He is described by counter-terrorist officials at Mi5, the British intelligence service, as the senior figure in a British terror network involving Kashmiri, north African and Iraqi cells.
The investigation into the suspected Al-Qaeda leader in Britain and his UK associates was considered by Eliza Manningham-Buller, Mi5's Director General, to be the security service's single most important line of inquiry. He is suspected of being behind two "pipelines" which saw potential terrorist recruits being sent for training at camps in Pakistan and to join "holy war" in Iraq.
"The Al-Qaeda leader - who cannot be named for legal reasons - acts as a suspected hub in a network of extremist groups. These include Kashmiri and north African groups based in this country. He is linked to a second suspect also in Britain who has played a major role in facilitating support for the Iraq 'jihad'," the report said.
About Patel, it said, one of his former friends recalled how the 17-year-old boy had changed from being a carefree person who used to enjoy playing football in the street into a cold and temperamental youth.
The friend claimed that Patel's character had changed two or three years ago when his father, a mechanic called Mohammed, travelled to Iraq on a Muslim aid mission and, apparently, never returned home, the paper said.
Having attended Northwold primary school, which is directly opposite his home, Patel's secondary education was cut short. He was expelled at the age of 15 or 16.
"He was kicked out because he was bunking off lessons all the time. He didn't try to get back into school and just ended up staying at home all day. I don't think he started work. At one stage he used to come around to help us carry out repairs in our home, but in less than a year he turned 180 degrees," the friend told the paper.
Patel had taken to wearing traditional Muslim clothes. But more recently, said the friend, he switched back to western clothing but nobody knew why. "He did have a temper on him. Only last week he was arguing with my grandfather for staring at him in the street."
Amin Asmin Tariq, another of those nabbed in east London whose company Jet Airways has suspended him, "did not look shocked, just perfectly calm" when he was held, a neighbour said. Tariq, 23, recently became father, the paper said.