August 16, 2006

UK police seek extra time to quiz bomb suspects

LONDON (Reuters) - Police will seek more time on Wednesday
to question suspects in the alleged plot to blow up
transatlantic airliners, as it emerged a 12-year-old boy with
no documents had managed to board a plane at UK's Gatwick

Detectives must apply to extend the detention warrants for
23 of the 24 suspects arrested since police said they had
foiled a plan to carry out suicide bombings on planes bound for
the United States using liquid explosives disguised as drinks.

The 23 people are all British-born Muslims, mainly of
Pakistani descent. Police can hold suspects for up to 28 days
before either charging or releasing them.

Also on Wednesday, Home Secretary John Reid is due to meet
EU counterparts to discuss the plot and ongoing operations.

One of those attending the meeting in London is French
Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy who has said the threat of
terrorism remained "high and permanent."

"There is absolutely no question of lowering our guard,"
said Sarkozy.

Meanwhile the massive police investigation in Britain
continues. Detectives said they had already executed 46 search
warrants, with 22 of those searches continuing and another 20
vehicles examined.

Officers are still combing woodland around the town of High
Wycombe in Buckinghamshire for evidence. One house in the town,
according to British media, may have been used by the suspected
plotters to mix chemicals to blow up as many as 10 U.S.-bound

The chaos at Britain's major airports has begun to ease
slightly after the ban on all airline cabin baggage was relaxed
to allow passengers to carry a small bag on board, although it
is still forbidden to take liquids on board planes.

However passengers continued to suffer major delays and
airlines were still being forced to cancel some of their
flights because of the extra security measures.

British Airways said it planned to operate 90 percent of
its schedule on Wednesday but will cancel 46 flights from
Heathrow and Gatwick.

It is also trying to deal with a backlog of 5,000 bags
which are waiting to be returned to their owners.

However, despite the high level of alert, airport operator
BAA said a 12-year-old boy with no documents had managed to get
on board a plane at Gatwick.

The boy had run away from a care home in Merseyside and
boarded a plane for Lisbon at 6 a.m. on Monday before the other
passengers, according to media reports.

However, he was spotted by cabin crew who alerted the

"The boy had passed through our full security screening
process so he had passed through the search process and I'm
confident there was no threat at any stage to passengers and
staff or to the aircraft," a BAA spokesman told BBC radio.

He added a full investigation was under way.