August 15, 2006

Police hold new suspect in UK planes bomb plot

By Katherine Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - British police detained one more person
on Tuesday in connection with last week's alleged plot to blow
up transatlantic airliners, as France's interior minister said
the threat of terrorism remained "high and permanent."

The arrest took the number of people held in Britain to 24
after police said on Thursday they had foiled a plan to carry
out multiple suicide bombings on aircraft bound for the United
States using liquid explosives disguised as drinks.

The alleged plot by suspected Islamist militants, if
followed through, could have surpassed the September 11, 2001,
attacks on the United States in fatalities.

French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy told France 2
television that information France had received from Britain
showed the authorities had faced a "serious" and "imminent"

"The (terror) threat is high and permanent. There is
absolutely no question of lowering our guard," said Sarkozy,
who is due to meet his British counterpart in London on
Wednesday to discuss on-going anti-terror operations.

British police -- who are conducting searches in at least
three parts of the country -- said they had arrested another
suspect in the Thames Valley area in southeastern Britain,
where officers raided several houses last week.

The 23 people already being held in Britain are all
British-born Muslims, mainly of Pakistani descent. No details
were immediately available on the latest arrest.

Police on Wednesday must get a judge's approval to continue
to hold those detained last week. Suspects can be held for up
to 28 days without charge under new powers introduced last


The Pakistan government said on Friday it had arrested
seven people, including two British Muslims of Pakistani
descent. One of the Britons, Rashid Rauf, has links to al
Qaeda, it said.

A Pakistani intelligence official also said this week
authorities were probing two Islamic charities, al Rasheed
Trust and al Asar Trust, over a possible financing role.

Authorities were investigating whether money donated in
Britain to provide relief to victims of last year's earthquake
in Pakistani-held Kashmir had been diverted to fund the alleged
plot to blow up the planes, he said.

British police on Tuesday combed woodland around the town
of High Wycombe, in the Thames Valley, for evidence of the
alleged plot.

One of the houses raided in High Wycombe, according to
British media, may have been used by the alleged plotters to
mix the chemicals to blow up as many as 10 U.S.-bound aircraft.

The suspected plot came 13 months after British Muslim
suicide bombers killed 52 people on London's transport system.

It caused chaos at Britain's major airports as all airline
cabin baggage was banned. Britain eased that ban on Monday as
it scaled down the threat level to "severe" from "critical."

But passengers continued to suffer major delays on Tuesday
and airlines were still forced to cancel some of their flights.

British Airways, which has been forced to cancel 1,100
flights since security checks were stepped up, said it might
seek compensation from airport operator BAA Plc.

Mountains of baggage piled up at Heathrow, the world's
busiest international airport, as BA said it was still trying
to clear a backlog of 5,000 bags and deliver them to their

(Additional reporting by Crispian Balmer in Paris)