21 held in UK for plot to blow up US-bound flights
Twenty-one people in and around London were arrested in raids on Wednesday night in connection with the plot.india Updated: Aug 12, 2006 14:34 IST
The British police on Thursday foiled a plot to kill thousands of people by detonating explosions on up to 10 flights between the UK and US in what Washington said might have been an attempted Al-Qaeda operation.
It is believed the intention was to set off near simultaneous blasts, using explosives smuggled inside hand baggage. The plot is believed to have involved a “liquid chemical” device.
Twenty-one people in and around London were arrested in raids on Wednesday night in connection with the plot.
“We have disrupted a plan by terrorists to cause untold death and destruction,” said London police deputy commissioner Paul Stephenson. “This was intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale.”
A British security source said that the plot was imminent and could have been days away.
Peter Clarke, the head of the Metropolitan police’s anti-terror branch, said the operation had involved an “unprecedented level of surveillance” and had reached a “critical point” on Wednesday when officers moved to “protect the public”.
“This operation is in some respects suggestive of an Al Qaeda plot,” US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told reporters. While British police sources did not rule out an Al Qaeda link, they played down the idea of direct involvement by the global militant group.
Reports said the apparent idea was to use a liquid-based explosive. There were suggestions one explosive component was to have been hidden in bottles of fizzy drink.
British home secretary John Reid said police were confident the main players had been detained. He would not comment on claims that the detainees were British-born Muslims of Pakistani descent.
Following the announcement of the plot, Britain and the United States stepped up security, causing severe delays at airports.
Some flights into London’s Heathrow Airport were cancelled. Airlines banned all hand baggage on planes leaving Heathrow, causing chaos and long delays during one of the busiest weeks for summer trans-Atlantic travel.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is on holiday in the Caribbean, was being kept constantly informed of developments and had briefed US president George W Bush too.