Bank of England releases names of bomb plot suspects
The Bank of England released the names of 19 suspectsof an alleged plot to blow up commercial aircraft, announcing in a statement early Friday that their assets have been frozen.
"On the advice of the police and security services, the Treasury has instructed the Bank of England to issue notices to effect a freeze of the assets of a number of individuals arrested in yesterday's operations," the statement said.
The suspects range in age from 17 to 35, with the majority in their early to mid-20s. It was reported Thursday that 24 people were being questioned in the investigation.
It is believed that police will ask the courts later Friday for permission to holdsuspects without charge for 28 days, something that can be requested within 48 hours of an arrest under England's new anti-terrorism law.
Officials said Thursday that thealleged plot would have been carried out within days. Media reports in the U.S. and England saidfive to10 moresuspects were being sought, but British authorities would not comment on those reports.
The alleged plot, which apparently targeted as many as 10 commercial flights, involved using liquid explosives smuggled in hand luggage, Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Paul Stephenson told reporters in London on Thursday.
The liquid explosives were to be disguised as beverages and other common products and then set off with detonators disguised as electronic devices, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said.
Plotters had hoped to stage a dry run within two days to see if they could smuggle their material on to the plane, U.S. intelligence officials told the Associated Press. The actual attack was to follow within days.
One official said suicide attackers planned to use a peroxide-based solution that could ignite when sparked by a camera flash or another electronic device.
Two American security officials said the suspects had targeted United, American and Continental airlines.
"This is not about any particular community. This is about mass murder," Stephenson said.
"We think this was an extraordinarily serious plot and we are confident that we've prevented an attempt to commit mass murder on an unimaginable scale," he said.
British investigators worked closely with Pakistani securityofficials to uncover the alleged plot, according to reports.
An intelligence official told the Associated Press that an Islamic militant arrested near the Afghan-Pakistan border several weeks ago provided a lead that played a role in "unearthing the plot," that helped authorities arrest suspects in Britain.
While British officials declined to publicly identify the 24 suspects, French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said in Paris that they "appear to be of Pakistani origin." AU.S Homeland Security Department official said all the people arrested in Britain were British citizens, Reuters reported.
British Home Secretary John Reid said the alleged plot was "significant" and that the plotters aimed to "bring down a number of aircraft through mid-flight explosions, causing a considerable loss of life."
Reid saidthe people arrested were thealleged "main players" in the plot.
|Tips for travellers|
The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority issued new rules effective noon on Aug. 10 after British police announced a plot to bomb commercial aircraft from Britain to the United States.
The rules will affect you if you're flying from any Canadian airport, including on a domestic trip.
You can take carry-on luggage but it can't contain any liquids or gels, including:
Put all liquids and gels in checked baggage.
If you're boarding a flight to the United States, you'll be asked to take off your shoes for screening.
Sources in the U.K. confirmed to the BBCthat they believethe attack may have been imminent— possibly in the next few days.
Police said the majority of arrests were made in London, but arrests were also made in its suburbs and in Birmingham. They said searches were continuing Thursday in a number of areas. Police were evacuating homes in High Wycombe, a town about 50 kilometres northwest of London, near one of the houses being searched.
U.S. President George W. Bush said Thursday the alleged plotis a "stark reminder" that the U.S. is "at war with Islamic fascists."
London's Heathrow Airport was closed Thursday to all incoming European flights that were not already in the air. Security has been increased at all airports in the United Kingdom.
Authorities in the United Kingdom raised the threat level to "critical" following the arrests.
Officials said people should not fly out of Britain on Thursday if they can delay their plans. Passengers were facing major delays and congestion at Heathrow, where no liquids or hand luggage were being allowed on departing aircraft.
Delays flyingto Toronto
Air Canada spokesman John Reber said passengers may be delayed by at least an hour if they are planning to fly from the United Kingdom to Canada on Thursday.
One flight from London to Toronto was on time early Thursday, but about a dozen other flightsfrom London to Toronto were expected to be late.
Reber urged travellers to check the Air Canada website before they leave for the airport.
Passengers across Canada were advised Thursday not to carry gel or liquids of any kind on board, including shampoo and toothpaste, and not to bring drinks through screening points or on board. Theywere also being told to arrive early and be patient as security will be thorough.
All passengers heading for the U.S. on Thursday will have their shoes screened andall airports willlikely havean increased police presence. Hand luggage will be allowed. The measures will be in place for 48 to 72 hours.
No evidence of Canadian involvement
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day saidthere was no evidence that any Canadians were involved in the alleged bomb plot,but he warned thatofficials must remain vigilant.
"Canada is not immune to the threat of terrorism," Day tolda news conference in Vancouver.
Urging Canadians to be patient, Day saidhe was working closely with Americanand Britishofficials to co-ordinate security measures.
"Our reaction upon receiving this news last night was immediate,"he said.
U.S. raises threat alert
In response to the arrests, the U.S. government raised its threat alert to red, its highest level, for commercial flights from Britain to the U.S. It was the first time that the U.S. had done so.
The U.S. government banned all liquids and gels from carry-on luggage onflights, including toothpaste, makeup and suntan lotion, but said it would allowbaby formula and medicine. Security officials said there is concern about liquids and gels because of the possibility that components used in the making of a bomb could be taken on board in thoseforms.
With files from the Associated Press