Threat posed by Muslim airport employees highlighted as Heathrow airport worker with all area access is arrested in terror plot
August 11, 2006
MIIM: Screening thousands of airline passengers, and forcing them to dump their hand luggage seems absurd in light of the fact that Muslim screeners, baggage handlers, and airline employees pose much more of a threat. Given the high terror alert, airlines should be recalling all Muslim employees until they can be put through an extensive background and security check, failing to do so, will render the passenger precautions exercises in futility. The two Hezbollah Jihadis picked up in Ohio with passenger and airport information were driving the car of a one of their mothers who is an airport employee in Michigan. In the UK one of the arrested plotters was a Heathrow employee with access to entire airport. Thousands under scrutiny while the Muslim screeners and baggage handlers may be the biggest threat http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/08/11/terror.plot/
Among those arrested were a Muslim charity worker and a Heathrow Airport employee with an all-area access pass, according to Britain's Channel 4.Officials: Plot suspects met alleged al Qaeda bomber
(CNN) -- Two of the suspects held in connection with the plot to down jetliners with explosives had contact with a Pakistani suspected of being an al Qaeda operative, U.S. and British officials said Friday.
The officials allege that Matiur Rehman, described as an explosives expert in Pakistan who is now at large, met two of the British suspects in Pakistan.
But officials, who say the plot displays signs of al Qaeda participation but who are still investigating that angle, do not know whether Rehman was involved in the plot. (Watch how the plot had hallmarks of al Qaeda -- 3:19)
After the two people returned to Britain, they received a wire transfer of money from Pakistan, the officials said.
Authorities in Britain on Thursday announced the arrests of 24 people in connection with the plot. While the investigation continues, the government officials say the primary players are in custody.
British Home Secretary John Reid acknowledged on Friday the Pakistani role in breaking the case.
"We are very grateful for all the help and cooperation we have received from our international partners, including Pakistan, and I would like to thank them for the assistance they have given us," he said.
Pakistani officials said the arrests of two British citizens and five Pakistanis last week directly contributed to terror arrests made Thursday in Britain. Intelligence sources identified one of the British citizens as Rashid Rauf.
The original information about the plan came from the Muslim community in Britain, according to a British intelligence official.
"The plotters intended this to be a second September 11th," said British Homeland Security adviser Frances Townsend. "It's a frightening example of multiple, simultaneous attacks for explosions of planes that would have caused the death of thousands."
The tip resulted from a person who had been concerned about the activities of an acquaintance after the July 7, 2005, terror attacks in London, the official said.
U.S. government officials say there were two phone calls made from London to the United States recently by suspects. Those calls were tracked down and investigated, but there is no evidence of any involvement of people in the United States in the alleged plot.
The alleged plot to smuggle liquid explosives onto planes has led to new security measures at airports around the world. In Britain, airline passengers were not allowed Friday to take hand luggage onto planes for a second day, said British Airports Authority Chief Executive Stephen Nelson.
Passengers in the U.S. faced a second security check starting Friday, the day after huge lines of people dumped shampoo, lotion and water before boarding planes. (Read about the latest situation at U.S. airports)
A number of men were in the "final stages" of a plot to blow up as many as 10 jets leaving Britain for the United States, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said.
The Bank of England on Friday froze the accounts of 19 suspects who were arrested in connection with the plot, a British Treasury spokesman said. (Suspects' names)
Although officials believed the main suspects were in custody, Britain's threat level remained "critical," the highest level, Reid said Friday.
He said Britons faced a "common threat" and appealed for tolerance and resilience.
Reid said Friday that Britain was grateful for Pakistan's cooperation in breaking up the plot.
The United States on Friday renewed its warning to U.S. citizens to defer nonessential travel to Pakistan amid rising concerns over terror activity that could be directed against U.S. interests.
The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India, on Friday warned American citizens of possible terrorist attacks across India in the coming week. (Full story)
The men detained in Britain on Thursday had not bought plane tickets, the officials said, but they had been perusing the Internet to find flights to various cities that had similar departure times.
An undercover British agent had infiltrated the alleged plotters, giving the authorities intelligence on the alleged plan, several U.S. government officials said. (Watch as neighbors describe the dramatic arrests -- 2:18)
Among those arrested were a Muslim charity worker and a Heathrow Airport employee with an all-area access pass, according to Britain's Channel 4.
The suspects were planning to stage a test run within a couple of days, said a U.S. intelligence official.
The suspected terrorists had been under surveillance in Britain since last December, Channel 4 reported.
A senior congressional source said it is believed the plotters planned to mix a British sports drink with a gel-like substance to make a potent explosive that could be ignited with an MP3 player or cell phone. (Watch how liquid explosives could be devastating -- 2:32)
The sports drink could be combined with a peroxide-based paste to form a potent "explosive cocktail," if properly done, said a U.S. counterterrorism official.
"There are strong reasons to believe the materials in a beverage like that could have been part of the formula," the official said.
As many as 50 people were involved in the plot, an internal Department of Homeland Security document said.
Information gathered after the arrests in Pakistan convinced British investigators they had to act urgently to stop the plot, sources said.
Two of the suspects left "martyrdom tapes," according to sources familiar with the details of the British investigation.
After the plot was exposed, authorities immediately banned all passengers headed to or departing from U.S. airports from carrying any liquid in their carry-ons. The massive lines that resulted at security checkpoints made air travel chaotic worldwide as flights were delayed or canceled. (Full story)
Air passengers across Europe faced a second day of delays on Friday, though the situation had eased from the previous day when London's Heathrow Airport was closed to many incoming flights. (Full story)
CNN's Kelli Arena contributed to this report