Thursday, August 10, 2006

Red Alert, terror plot foiled in Britain, possible Libya connection?

British police have foiled a terrorist plot to 'commit mass murder on an unimaginable scale' by destroying up to ten passenger aircraft in mid-air, using a 'liquid explosive' and every day 'electronics' as detonators. More than 20 suspects, all believed to be British-born Muslims, have been arrested in connection with the plot, and possibly 30 more arrests expected to be made soon. Delays in air traffic and fight cancellations around the world, specifically Heathrow in Britain, New York, Washington D.C., and California in the United States and Libya, according to Scotland Yard deputy commissioner Paul Stephenson.

Airlines targeted include American, United, Continental, a number of European airlines, including Germany's Lufthansa and Air France, and more. Officials raised security to its highest level, suggesting a terrorist attack might be imminent, and banned hand-carried luggage on all trans-Atlantic flights. In the US all 'liquids or gels' have been banned from carry-on luggage, with the exception of baby formula and medications, which must be tasted before boarding the flight.

The US raised to 'orange' the threat level for all flights and to 'red' - the highest possible level - for flights coming in from Britain, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in a statement.

Chertoff said that while the US believed British authorities had 'significantly disrupted' the planned attack, the US could not be certain that the threat 'has been entirely eliminated or the plot completely thwarted,' in the statement quoted by US media. source

The investigation has been going on for months and authorities are not saying what caused the arrests to take place last night.

The Department of Transport advised all passengers that they would not be permitted to carry any hand baggage on board any aircraft departing from any airport in the country.

Prescription medicines were OK; so were eyeglasses but not their cases, the department said. Contact lenses could be taken aboard in their cases, but bottles of solution were banned.

Passengers were also advised that no electrical or battery powered items, including laptops and mobile phones, could be carried into the cabin. source

"This was to be a simultaneous attack on multiple targets, targeting U.S.-bound aircraft,'' a police official said. The plot, reportedly, involved more than one person on each flight who planned to assemble the components on-board. Their plan was for multiple, simultaneous explosions on planes headed to the United States.

The terrorists were British Muslims, possibly Pakistan or Indian, but authorities are not saying for sure if there is an al-Qaeda connection yet. They want to be 'sure' before any announcements are made public. Officials say the plot is 'suggestsive of al-Qaeda'. They are being referred to as British Islamists.

Police arrested 21 people in London, its suburbs and in Birmingham, central England. Searches continued in a number of locations.

The suspects were ``homegrown,'' though it was not immediately clear if they were all British citizens, the police official said, adding that police were working with the South Asian community.

Fox News Channel this morning reported that a British souce suggested a possible Libyan connection, but I am not hearing anything from other sources on this subject.

London's Heathrow airport was the departure point for a devastating terrorist attack on a Pan Am Boeing 747 on Dec. 21, 1988. The blast over Lockerbie, Scotland killed all 259 people aboard Pan Am Flight 103 and 11 people on the ground.

The explosive was hidden in a portable radio which was hidden in checked baggage.

A Scottish court convicted Libyan intelligence agent Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi of the bombing in 2001 and sentenced him to life imprisonment. A second Libyan was acquitted.

In 2003, Libya officially accepted responsibility for the attack and agreed to pay relatives of each bombing victim at least US$5 million. source

Scotland Yard, MI-5, have been in charge of the investigation with US officials kept in the loop.

The government crisis committee, Cobra, which comprises key ministers and the chiefs of the intelligence agencies, had met three times in the last 24 hours, it emerged.

'We just don't know whether this is the start of something bigger,' one security expert said. source

Evan Kohlmann at the Counterterrorism Blog has a great post, "Al-Qaida's Use of "Liquid Bombs" Targeting Airliners"

Pakistan may have played major role in thwarting this plot, via Fox.

Originally posted at Right Truth

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