UK names suspects in transatlantic airline bomb plot
By Katherine Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain on Friday named 19 people
suspected of being involved in a plot to blow up transatlantic
airliners and ordered their assets frozen, a day after police
said they had foiled attempts to cause mass murder.
The Bank of England, acting on instructions from the
government, published the names and addresses of 19 suspects,
saying it would be illegal to release their funds.
The list gave the first details of some of those allegedly
connected to the plot. Police said the plan was to carry out
multiple suicide attacks by smuggling chemical bombs on to
planes disguised as drinks.
Those arrested are aged 17 to 35 and lived in areas of east
London, in the southeastern town of High Wycombe and in
Britain’s second city of Birmingham. Police are holding 24
people following arrests on Thursday after a series of raids in
The suspected plot sparked chaos at Britain’s airports at
the height of the holiday season with hundreds of flights
canceled as airlines imposed strict security measures. The
security measures remained in place on Friday.
“(The bombers) were a couple of days from a test, and a few
days from doing it,” said a U.S. intelligence official,
declining to be named.
President Bush said the plan was a stark reminder his
country was at “war with Islamic fascists.”
“The plan was to have multiple suicide bombings on
aircraft, essentially at the same time,” said U.S. Homeland
Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, adding al Qaeda might have
been involved but that it was too early to draw conclusions.
The incident raised the specter of strikes to rival the
September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States that killed
about 3,000 people and came 13 months after four British Muslim
suicide bombers killed 52 people on London’s transport network.
U.S. officials said as many as 10 planes might have been
struck. Transatlantic jumbo jet flights usually carry more than
300 people, suggesting a death toll in the thousands.
“We are confident we have disrupted a plan by terrorists to
cause untold death and destruction,” said the London police
force’s Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson. “Put simply, this
was intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale.”
Pakistan said it played a role in thwarting the suspected
plot and had arrested an undisclosed number of people. A senior
government official said Pakistan arrested two Britons of
Pakistani descent last week in a coordinated operation.
British Home Secretary (Interior Minister) John Reid said
police were confident all the main figures had been caught but
the U.S. TV network ABC quoted unnamed U.S. officials as saying
five suspects were still on the loose.
The U.S. Homeland Security department said all were British
Last month, al Qaeda called on Muslims to fight those
backing Israel’s strikes on Lebanon and warned of attacks
unless U.S. and British forces pulled out of Iraq and
British security sources said they had been watching the
suspects for eight months.
News of the suspected plot affected financial markets.
Shares in European airlines fell. The pound fell against the
dollar and the euro. Oil fell to below $76 a barrel on fears
the security threat might slow growth worldwide and cut oil
In Britain, all hand luggage was banned on flights and
passengers were allowed on board with only a single clear
plastic bag containing items from an official list.
On both sides of the Atlantic authorities banned liquids
and gels from bags being carried on to aircraft, and travelers
with babies were forced to taste their baby food before
British Airways said on Friday the vast majority of its
flights were due to operate under a “near-normal” schedule.
(Additional reporting by Peter Graff and Peter Griffiths)