Fugitive Briton arrested in Pakistan over jet bomb plot
By Isambard Wilkinson, Nick Britten and John Steele | August 12, 2006
Pakistan announced last night that it had arrested seven people, including two Britons, over the alleged airlines bomb plot and claimed it was linked to al-Qa'eda.
A statement released last night by the foreign affairs ministry named one of the British nationals as Rashid Rauf, 26.
Rauf's brother, Tayib Rauf, 22, was arrested in Birmingham and is one of 19 people on a list issued by the Treasury of terrorist suspects whose assets should be frozen.
The 19 are among 24 suspects arrested over the alleged plot, at least four of whom are converts to Islam. They are being held at London police stations and detectives have 28 days to question them.
A Pakistani security official confirmed to The Daily Telegraph that Rashid is the elder brother of Tayib Rauf, who was arrested on Thursday in Birmingham. Rashid Rauf is believed to be wanted for questioning by West Midlands police investigating the murder of his uncle.
He is understood to have left his home in Birmingham following the stabbing of Mohammed Saeed, 54, near his home in Alum Rock in April 2002.
The arrests in Pakistan are thought to have triggered the decision to move against suspected plotters in Britain, who had been watched since last December.
Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander
Security officials played down suggestions of "puppet masters" in Pakistan, saying that the plot was largely based in Britain. However, they have acknowledged a Pakistani connection.
Tony Blair yesterday telephoned President Pervez Musharraf - a key ally of the West's "war on terror" - and thanked him for Pakistan's "valuable" help.
A Pakistani security official said Rashid Rauf's frequent use of text messages to Britain was the reason for his arrest outside an internet shop in Zhob, in the border region of Balochistan.
He will be questioned to establish whether there was anything sinister in the communications, and other arrests are expected.
The foreign ministry statement also said there were "indications of Afghanistan-based al-Qa'eda connections" in the case, but did not elaborate. An official said the five Pakistanis arrested were believed to have been helping as "facilitators" and were held a week ago.
Some of these facilitators were said to be linked to the Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist group that has been held responsible for the December 2001 attack on the Indian parliament and is suspected over the murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Britain's terrorism warning level remained at critical last night - its highest state of alert - which indicates that an attack is thought to be imminent.
John Reid, the Home Secretary, appealed for vigilance and warned that the police could not be 100 per cent certain that everyone involved in the plot had been held. But he added: "We think the main suspects are in custody."
Police sources confirmed that they held "all those on our arrest list" on Thursday.
Douglas Alexander, the Transport Secretary said last night that airline passengers were likely to face tighter restrictions in the future.
Speaking after senior ministers met representatives of the aviation industry in Whitehall, he said that while the present restrictions on hand baggage were unlikely to remain indefinitely, there would be no return to the previous arrangements.
Mr Alexander was speaking after a day in which airlines and airports struggled to restore a semblance of normality to the system during the height of the holiday season.
More stringent security demands from the United States left thousands of passengers and dozens of planes stranded on airport aprons waiting for permission to take off.
Scotland Yard disclosed last night that almost 1,100 people have been arrested as terrorist suspects in Britain in the five years since the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington. Most have been Islamic extremist jihadis.
Between September 2001 and 30 June 2006, a total of 1,047 people were arrested for offences under the Terrorism Act 2000 (TACT). This total does not include a number of arrests since, including the 24 in the airlines plot.
Of the 1,047, a total of 158 have been charged with offences under TACT, while 174 have faced non-terrorism charges, some involving serious allegations such as murder, and 69 have dealt with under immigration law.
The fact that more than 600 mainly Muslim men and women have been released without charge will fuel criticisms that the Government's anti-terrorism strategy discriminates against the Muslim community.
However, security chiefs have defended the figures, arguing that the system for investigating suspicions of terrorism is working as intended, as well as establishing possible guilt, it establishes the innocence of people otherwise suspected by the general public.
They also argued that police take the risk of waiting to catch terrorists "red handed" with bombs. "The reality of current terrorist methodology is of extensive conspiracies, which often require executive action at an early stage because of the risk of mass atrocities," Scotland Yard said.
"It should also be noted that not all suspects who are charged with serious offences, are charged under the Terrorism Act 2000, examples of offences which suspects might be charged with include conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to attempt murder, conspiracy to cause explosions, possession of automatic weaponry and fraud offences."