Tuesday, July 13, 2010

NYT : 3 Sentenced in London for Airline Plot

3 Sentenced in London for Airline Plot

By JOHN F. BURNS | July 12, 2010

LONDON — Three men convicted last week of involvement in a 2006 plot to bomb trans-Atlantic airliners were sentenced in a London court on Monday to life imprisonment, with the judge telling them they would serve a minimum of 20 years for their roles as “foot soldiers.”

The sentencing brought an end to an exhaustive court process that began in 2008 — an initial trial and two retrials — and concluded a terrorism case that British officials have described as the longest, costliest and most serious in the country’s history. The plot detailed in court involved suicide bombers who were to bring down at least seven airliners heading from London to the United States and Canada on a single day with explosions created by mixing liquids carried aboard in plastic soft-drink bottles.

In all, eight men were sentenced to life terms for their roles in a scheme that prosecutors said could have taken 2,000 lives, and possibly many more. Evidence not presented at trial because of a ban on intercept evidence in British courts showed that the plotters were caught by electronic bugs discussing the recruitment of as many as 18 suicide bombers. When arrested, the plot’s ringleader in Britain, Abdulla Ahmed Ali, was carrying a computer memory device listing seven flights earmarked for attack.

Lawyers for the three men sentenced on Monday — Arafat Waheed Khan, 29; Ibrahim Savant, 29; and Waheed Zaman, 26 — told the Woolwich Crown Court in south London that they had been led into terrorism, and had their Muslim faith corrupted, by Mr. Ali, 29, a computer engineer, who had known two of the three men since they were at school together in east London. Mr. Ali is serving a life sentence in the case, as are four other men.

The judge, Sir Timothy Holroyde, said he accepted that the three men were recruited by Mr. Ali, whom he called “a very powerful personality.” But he noted their full participation in the plot, telling them that each of them had planned “to kill members of the general public and yourselves by acting as a suicide bomber” and had recorded “martyrdom videos” in which they had spoken of themselves as “blessed by the opportunity to take part in that mission.”

“In this dreadful conspiracy, the intended role of the foot soldier was to blow himself up and to kill and maim an uncertain but potentially large number of men, women and children,” the judge said.

American intercepts of telephone and e-mail traffic between the plotters and contacts in Pakistan linked to Al Qaeda were crucial to uncovering the plot, and provided Scotland Yard with leads that led to a surveillance operation in Britain that kept the plotters under observation for several months.

But the case ended up causing deep strains between British and American terrorism investigators. Scotland Yard blamed the Americans for the premature arrest in Pakistan of a British man regarded as the plot’s mastermind, Rashid Rauf. That arrest forced a hasty roundup of the remaining suspects in August 2006 that British investigators said weakened the case against the men at the ensuing trials. Mr. Rauf escaped from Pakistani custody in December 2007, but was reported by American and Pakistani officials to have been killed in an area along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan 11 months later by a missile fired from an American drone.

A first trial in London ended with none of the eight defendants convicted of the principal charge of plotting to blow up airliners. A second trial led to three of the men, including Mr. Ali, being convicted on that charge, and two others on the charge of conspiracy to commit murder. At the third trial, the three men sentenced on Monday were found guilty of the same charge. All eight men received life terms, and four other men over the course of the trials were convicted of lesser offenses related to the plot.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

MSNBC : U.K. airline bomb plot ringleader gets 40 years

U.K. airline bomb plot ringleader gets 40 years

Four men were planning to blow up airliners bound for North America

September 14, 2009

LONDON - In a case that altered airport security worldwide, three British Muslims were imprisoned Monday for at least 30 years each for a plot to kill thousands by blowing up trans-Atlantic airliners with liquid explosives hidden in soda bottles.

The judge described the foiled suicide bombings — meant to rival the Sept. 11 attacks — as "a grave and wicked" conspiracy, likely the most serious terrorist case ever dealt with by a British court. The plot's disclosure prompted an immediate ban on taking some liquids onboard passenger jets, a measure that remains in place, inconveniencing passengers throughout the world.

Abdulla Ahmed Ali — the plot's ringleader — was given a minimum of 40 years in prison, one of the longest sentences ever handed out by a British court. Assad Sarwar, 29, and Tanvir Hussain, 28, were imprisoned for a minimum of 36 years and 32 years respectively at London's high security Woolwich Crown Court.

"The intention was to perpetrate a terrorist outrage that would stand alongside the events of Sept. 11, 2001," Judge Richard Henriques said, referring to attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Henriques said the three men were the key figures in a plan to assemble and detonate liquid explosive bombs on aircraft bound for the United States and Canada in 2006. The explosives were to be stored in bottles that once carried Lucozade or Oasis sodas, with food dye added to make the mixtures resemble the original drinks.

Thousands could have died

Authorities estimate that, if successful, about 2,000 passengers would have died — and if the bombs had been detonated over U.S. and Canadian cities, hundreds more would have been killed on the ground. Prosecutors said the suspects had targeted seven flights from London's Heathrow airport to New York, Washington, San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal and two to Chicago.

British and U.S. security officials said the plan was directly linked to al-Qaida and guided by Islamic militants in Pakistan, who sent instructions to the group via coded e-mail messages.

"The ultimate control of this conspiracy lay in Pakistan," Henriques said.

A fourth man, Umar Islam, 31, who was found guilty of conspiracy to murder in the plot, was jailed Monday for a minimum of 22 years. Jurors were unable to decide in his case whether he knew that the eventual plot would target aircraft.

Henriques told all four men they could spend their entire lives in prison if they are judged to continue to pose a threat to the public once they have completed the minimum requirements of their sentences.

He said Ali, who read a small book and appeared distracted as his sentence was passed, had "an ambition to lead a terrorist outrage of boundless proportion."

Ali's 40-year minimum sentence is among the highest jail terms ever meted out in Britain. Although judges can sentence convicted murderers to life without the possibility of parole, it is rare for convicts to spend their whole lives in prison. Only about 25 people have ever received sentences in Britain that condemn them to die behind bars.

Police officials said they believe the plotters were just days away from mounting their attacks when officers rounded up dozens of suspects in August 2006. The arrests led to travel chaos as hundreds of jetliners were grounded across Europe.

‘Meticulously planned conspiracy’

Investigators concede the group hadn't managed to produce a viable bomb at the time of their arrests or purchased airline tickets, but insist the plot was serious.

"This was a viable and meticulously planned conspiracy and I conclude it was imminent," Henriques said.

Sarwar's lawyer, Malcolm Bishop, told the court it was virtually impossible that the men could have constructed the bombs and carried them onboard undetected.

It took government scientists 58 attempts over six months, and at a cost of 650,000 pounds ($1,078,000) to create a viable bomb using the plotters' design, Bishop said. Henriques dismissed his argument.

Britain's chief prosecutor has said he will seek a retrial for three other men over their alleged involvement in the plot. A jury could not decide whether Ibrahim Savant, 28, Arafat Waheed Khan, 28, and Waheed Zaman, 25, were guilty of conspiracy to murder at a trial concluded last week. An earlier jury also was unable to agree on a verdict.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Times : Missionary Mohammed Gulzar 'was airline terror plot ringleader'

Missionary Mohammed Gulzar 'was airline terror plot ringleader'

David Byers at Woolwich Crown Court | April 7, 2008

The alleged role of a “shadowy” ringleader in the plot to blow up seven airlines travelling between Britain and North America was outlined in court today.

Mohammed Gulzar entered Britain on a flight from South Africa via Mauritius under the name of Altaf Ravat, on July 18, 2006, the prosecution said. He was travelling with Zora Saddique, whom the prosecution said he had married recently — but their union was just a "cover" and she had flown out of the country without him on August 1 on a ticket to Belgium.

When arrested three weeks after arriving at Heathrow, Mr Gulzar had been living in an unfurnished and deserted flat in Barking, East London. When questioned, he had initially identified himself under the false name and said that he had come to Britain as a missionary.

Mr Gulzar is one of eight alleged Islamists on trial in connection with a plot blow up the airlines travelling between Britain and America and Canada using liquid explosives in autumn 2006. However, the prosecution said that — unlike six of the other suspects — Mr Gulzar had not made a suicide video, and did not intend to blow himself up, but was co-ordinating the operation.

“It is the Crown's case that Mr Gulzar was no ordinary foot soldier — rather, he was a senior figure within the plot,” said Peter Wright, prosecuting.

The prosecution alleges that Mr Gulzar held covert meetings with Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 27, of Walthamstow, East London, and Assad Sarwar, 27, of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. Several telephone calls were also disclosed to have been made between them after his arrival.

“He led a spartan existence so as not to draw attention to himself in the prelude of what would be a violent and bloody statement of intent," Mr Wright said.

A search of the flat in Barking revealed a large collection of batteries, which appeared to have been sold in Pakistan, along with a camcorder, a palmtop satellite navigation system, and a large amount of jihadi material.

Mr Wright said that a mobile phone had also been discovered under a carpet in the bedroom, containing only two numbers, one belonging to Mr Ali and one to a person labelled simply “B”, in Pakistan.

Once arrested, Mr Gulzar had said that he was a missionary working for an Islamist organisation. The prosecution told the court that this was a cover-up for his real intentions.

“We submit that the pressing reason for his arrival, and his ulterior purpose in remaining and liaising with Ali and Sarwar, was his involvement as a senior figure in this plot to blow up transatlantic aircraft,” Mr Wright said.

“He was not here to strengthen religious resolve for any peaceful protest. Mohammed Gulzar entered Britain as a radical Islamist pursuing a violent agenda.”

The court heard that he had appeared to have returned from South Africa in a hurry, having booked his flight only a day before his journey began, on July 14. “Something caused him to take immediate action and travel to the United Kingdom,” Mr Wright said.

The decision to take the flight directly had coincided with the alleged purchase by the plotters of a bomb factory for £138,000 in cash, the buying and stockpiling of equipment and bomb-making ingredients, and recruitment of personnel, the prosecution claimed.

“The timing of his arrival was highly significant in respect of the proximity of various events that were taking place in the United Kingdom,” Mr Wright said.

The prosecution added that Mr Gulzar had failed to take his scheduled return flight to South Africa on August 1, and had made no attempt to do so.

Also in his evidence today, Mr Wright described the defendant Arafat Waheed Khan as an important link between the Walthamstow and High Wycombe part of the alleged conspiracy, who had travelled to Pakistan between October 2005 and January 2006 at the same time as Mr Ali and Mr Sarwar.

“It is the Crown's case that not only was he one of the intended suicide bombers but that he was also an important conduit between Ali and Sarwar,” he said.

“In other words, between the Walthamstow and High Wycombe ends of this particular conspiracy. That he was liaising between them and also directly involved in the purchase of equipment that was used in the manufacture of improvised explosive devices.

“He was also responsible for appearing in two separate suicide videos.”

The court also heard that Mr Ali, Mr Hussain and Mr Khan were watched by undercover police playing tennis together between visits to their “bomb factory” in Forest Road, Walthamstow, where it was claimed they finalised their plans.

Mr Wright said the matches took place in late July 2006, among visits to the top-floor flat to finish preparing the deadly home-made bombs and to record suicide videos.

The prosecution said that another of the alleged plotters, Waheed Zaman, was found to have literature and CDs containing violent jihadist material at his home in Walthamstow.

In the lead up to the men’s arrest on August 9 and 10, the court heard, a flurry of phonecalls took place involving Mr Ali, Mr Sarwar and Mr Gulzar, with many of the calls being made to their mobiles from payphones using international calling cards, in what the prosecution claims was an attempt to conceal them.

Calls were also made to companies specialising in hydrogen peroxide, the court heard, with the intention of “liaising with each other and overseas” in advance of their attack.

Ending the prosecution’s three-day opening statement, Mr Wright said: “It is the Crown’s case, therefore, that all of those men in the dock had a vital role to perform, from commanding officer, to quartermaster and footsoldier.”

He added that it the alleged terrorists were prepared to “bring terror to the skies in a way that the world was unlikely ever to forget”. Mr Wright concluded that the prosecution was satisfied each of the suspecs was "engaged in this murderous plot."

Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 27, of Walthamstow, East London; Mr Sarwar, 27; Tanvir Hussain, 26, of Leyton, East London; Mohammed Gulzar, 27, of Barking, East London; Ibrahim Savant, 27; Arafat Khan, 26; Waheed Zaman, 23, all of Walthamstow; and Umar Islam, 29, (aka Brian Young) of Plaistow, East London, all deny two charges of conspiracy to murder and conspiring to cause an explosion on an aircraft.

The court was adjourned until 10am tomorrow, when the prosecution will begin calling witnesses to give evidence in the trial.

Times : The airline bomb plot in numbers

The airline bomb plot in numbers

Sean O'Neill, Crime and Security Editor | September 7, 2009

The plot

386A - address of bomb factory on Forest Road, Walthamstow

£138,000 - purchase price of flat July 2006

7 - flights targeted for mid-air attack:

14.15 United Airlines Flight 931 to San Francisco

15.00 Air Canada Flight 849 to Toronto

15.15 Air Canada Flight 865 to Montreal

15.40 United Airlines Flight 959 to Chicago

16.20 United Airlines Flight 925 to Washington

16.35 American Airlines Flight 139 to New York

16.50 American Airlines Flight 91 to Chicago

2,000 - potential death toll in the air

5,000 - estimated death toll if planes crashed on cities

8 - defendants

20 - number of bombs they planned to make

500ml - size of bottles to be used for liquid bombs

100ml - current limit on liquids allowed in hand luggage

The investigation

26,066 exhibits seized

102 searches conducted

142 interviews with the defendants

9,710 witness statements taken

5 countries visited: Japan, Pakistan, South Africa, Mauritius, Belgium

800 computers and devices examined (226 from internet cafes)

15,000 CDs and DVDs seized

500 floppy disks seized

14,000 gigabytes of computer storage space examined

28 surveillance teams

£8 million - cost to Thames Valley of policing woodland while it was searched for explosives

£38 million cost to Met

2 trials

Times : Airline terror bomb plot: profiles of the accused

Airline terror bomb plot: profiles of the accused

Sean O'Neill, Crime & Security Editor | September 7, 2009

One was a ticket inspector on London's buses who was sent to help passengers after the 7/7 bombings; another worked in Hamleys toy shop on Regent Street and a couple were avid football fans.

Two others had known each other since primary school, while one maintained that he preferred drinking beer and chasing girls over prayer and politics.

They were British, either born or raised here, with British educations and British habits, accents and mannerisms. Two were converts to Islam. But the jury was told they had learnt to hate Britain and had agreed to play their parts in a terrorist operation which, had it succeeded, would have rivalled September 11 in shocking the world.

It was part of their indoctrination that they would be lionised in parts of the Muslim world and would emulate the men known to al-Qaeda sympathisers as the "magnificent 19", the 9/11 hijackers.


Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 28, a married father of a young child, has a degree in computer systems engineering. He was born in east London and lived in Walthamstow where he knew a number of his co-defendants from school and college.

In 2004 his first son was born two months prematurely and died in hospital. Ali said the experience left him emotionally devastated.

He has a brother who works as a probation officer, another working on the London Underground and a third who is a property developer. He has been religiously devout since he was 15 when he became an adherent of the ultra-orthodox Tablighi Jamaat movement.

Ali visited Pakistan extensively and claimed that many of his trips were as a volunteer for an Islamic medical charity. But in reality he was attending training camps and meeting senior figures in militant groups.

Ali took the lead role in recruiting the would-be suicide bombers, continually motivating them and sitting with them as they recorded their martyrdom videos in the flat he had bought in Walthamstow. He discussed taking his baby on the bombing mission to reduce his chances of arousing suspicion.

Prisoners in Belmarsh jail have described Ali as the "emir" or leader of the east London group with considerable influence over other inmates.

* Guilty of conspiracy to cause explosions on aircraft, conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to cause explosions and conspiracy to cause public nuisance.


Assad Ali Sarwar, 29, lived with his parents and sister in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. He was a university drop-out and a loner who was unemployed at the time of his arrest.

But Sarwar was valuable to the jihadi cause, too valuable to be allowed to die in a suicide mission. He was the man who would distribute the martyrdom videos after the attack and who conducted detailed research on oil refineries and power stations as possible alternative targets for the bombers.

He also scoured the country to obtain supplies of hydrogen peroxide for use in bomb making. Strong concentrations of the chemical became harder to obtain in the wake of the July 2005 bombings in London.

Sarwar was born and brought up in High Wycombe, did well at school but dropped out of Brunel University, west London, where he had been studying Earth Sciences.

He became involved in religious charities and travelled to Pakistan where he said he met Ali at a refugee camp near the Afghan border.

Between 2002-05 he held a variety of jobs as a postman, shelf-stacker at Asda, security guard and IT worker for BT.

* Guilty of conspiracy to cause explosions on aircraft, conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to cause explosions and conspiracy to cause public nuisance.


Tanvir Hussain, 28, claimed he had been a womaniser who drank heavily, used drugs and loved nightclubs but emerged as Ali's loyal lieutenant.

He was born in Blackburn, Lancashire, but moved to London with his family when he was six and met Ali while studying A levels at Waltham Forest College. Hussain later took a business and computers course at Middlesex University and told his trial that as a student he regularly drank and used drugs.

By 2003, however, he was a devout Muslim and began to display signs of extremism. One former colleague at St Anne's hospital, North London, said he became "quite agitated" after the 7/7 attacks in London. Zenda Rogers added: "He said I didn't understand what was going on and they were being persecuted".

* Guilty of conspiracy to cause explosions on aircraft, conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to cause explosions and conspiracy to cause public nuisance.


Donald Stewart-Whyte was the most unlikely plotter, the art student son of a former Tory election agent and a Muslim convert for less than five months after his arrest

Stewart-Whyte, 23, admitted to dealing cannabis and having possession of a Baikal 9mm handgun with ammunition but denied that he was part of any terrorist mass murder plot. He was cleared by the jury of the terrorism charges.

The prosecution had alleged that he was a "foot soldier" who had signalled his willingness to take part in a mid-air suicide mission. But he claimed he knew nothing of the airline plot and had turned to Islam as a route away from anxiety attacks, mental health problems and drug use.

* Not guilty of conspiracy to cause explosions on aircraft and conspiracy to murder. Guilty of firearms charge and drugs charge.


Waheed Zaman, 25, was the most highly educated of the group. He did poorly at GCSE level at school in east London but his ambitious parents, who wanted him to study medicine, sent him to a private boarding school to improve his chances of getting into university.

Zaman took a degree in biomedical sciences at London Metropolitan University but also devoted a lot of time to the student Islamic Society. The institution has since appointed an imam tasked with countering campus radicalism.

Zaman hung the red flag of Liverpool FC in his bedroom window on match days. He was also a dedicated political activist, attending Islamist events, and a devout follower of Tablighi Jamaat, the orthodox sect which controls the mosque opposite his family home on Queen's Road, Walthamstow.

To his family's disappointment, he did not use his education for a career and devoted most of his time to political and religious activities. Zaman's only paid employment appeared to be a Saturday job at Hamleys on Regent Street where he was working on August 5 2006, four days before his arrest.

* Guilty of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. Not guilty of conspiracy to cause explosions on aircraft. Jury failed to reach a verdict on conspiracy to murder.

Umar Islam, 31, was known as Brian Young and was a cannabis user and sometime Rastafarian before he converted to Islam and embraced fundamentalism.

He was one of five children and was brought up in a Methodist family in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. His conversion to Islam came in March 2001 and he was a regular attendee at the Islamic Education Centre in High Wycombe.

In 2002 he travelled to Pakistan to work in a refugee camp on behalf of the charity and told the court he represented the charity in meetings with UN officials.

Back in Britain he left his job as a postman in his home town and moved to east London to live with his new wife, a strict Muslim. Islam said he clashed with his wife's family, who were of Pakistani origin and disapproved of their daughter marrying a black man.

Islam began working for Transport for London as a ticket inspector on the buses in January 2005.

On July 7 2005 Islam was on duty close to Tavistock Square when a suicide bomber blew up a No 30 bus killing 13 passengers and himself. Islam was among the transport staff who rushed to the scene to help shocked and stricken passengers and passers by.

* Guilty of conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. Jury failed to reach a verdict on conspiracy to cause explosions on aircraft.

Arafat Waheed Khan, 27, bumbled his way through two recordings of his martyrdom video, stopping at one point to ask Ali "What do you mean by that?".

Khan was brought to London from Pakistan by his parents when he was just 12 months old and first met Ali at primary school in east London.

He went astray aged 16, when his father died of a heart attack, and failed his A-levels. Khan had a series of jobs as a shop assistant at House of Fraser, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Ralph Lauren.

In 2000 he was given an 80-hour community service order for stealing a car and the following year escaped with a conditional discharge after being caught with a small amount of heroin.

At the time of his arrest he was working as a mobile phone sales assistant at a branch of The Link.

* Guilty of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. Not guilty of conspiracy to cause explosions on aircraft. Jury failed to reach a verdict on conspiracy to murder.

Ibrahim Savant, 28, was brought up as Oliver Savant, the son of an English mother and an Indian father. As a design student at the University of Hertford, he took up his father's Muslim faith and adopted the name Ibrahim.

Friends said he was not a fanatic and loved English life; he was an Arsenal supporter whose favourite food was fish and chips.

Savant became involved in charity work with Ali and worked as a freelance book-keeper. His wife was eight months pregnant when he was detained in August 2006.

Savant had left an envelope containing £650 and a farewell note to her stating: "Life here is tempory (sic), that's why its so fragile. I wish for you to be part of my permant (sic) life in the hereafter."

* Guilty of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. Not guilty of conspiracy to cause explosions on aircraft. Jury failed to reach a verdict on conspiracy to murder.

Times : Airline bomb plot: coded e-mail trail exposed plan

Airline bomb plot: coded e-mail trail exposed plan

Three men found guilty of plotting to blown up passenger planes using liquid bombs

Sean O'Neill, Crime and Security Editor | September 7, 2009

A string of coded e-mails between the terror cell leaders in Britain and their al-Qaeda taskmasters revealed the extent to which the airline plot was being run from Pakistan.

The e-mails were monitored during the investigation and presented in evidence after being obtained from the internet service provider.

Yahoo was served with a court order in California ordering their production.

At the centre of the exchange of messages is a figure referred to as "Paps" or "Papa" - believed to be a pen-name used by a British-born Muslim from Birmingham, who played a key part in recruiting and facilitating al-Qaeda activity in Britain from Pakistan.

The man is reported by US intelligence to have been killed by a Predator drone missile strike on a house in Pakistan's tribal areas last year. But between 2003-06 he was believed to be the key link-man in turning British jihadists who wanted to fight in Afghanistan or Iraq into terrorists and suicide bombers willing to attack their home country.

Abdullah Ahmed Ali, who visited Pakistan several times in that period, was one of the man's protégés. He registered two e-mail addresses while in the Pakistani capital Islamabad in June 2006. For one address he claimed to be an American woman called Tippu Khjan from 'Shepherdstown, West Virginia'. In the second address he used the identity 'Jameel Masood' - again filling in 'United States' under the location heading.

Assad Sarwar, the gang's quartermaster, had similar arrangements for e-mailing contacts in Pakistan - setting up two accounts under false names.

They then allocated nicknames to themselves and the young men they recruited and used codes for the material they were acquiring to make their explosive devices.

Hydrogen peroxide, a key ingredient, was referred to in the e-mails as "aftershave", with price per bottle referring to its concentration. The number of bottles meant the volumes required: with "40 bottles" signifying four litres.

Investigators believed that repeated reference to a rap concert - believed to be a trial run - indicated that the plotters planned to test airport security by sending one of their number on a flight to America in the run-up to the real attacks.

They were also constantly aware of the threat of police surveillance, referred to in the emails as a "skin problem", while "wedding videos" were references to the martyrdom tapes they had recorded.

On 26 June, two days after Ali's return to England from Islamabad, he sent a message to Pakistan saying: "Hi, yeah I'm cool. Got back from holiday. Everything went fine. Didn't get any problems at all. I'm just getting settled, take a few days, then I'll start trading."

On July 4, he informed his contact of a new recruit: "Hey, my mate... he is up for the gig as well. Is it OK if you put him in? He has sorted his looks out, he no longer looks like a junkie. I believe he is ready to be promoted.

"My [other] mate said he is cool with a (rehearsal) trial run. I will send him soon to the club for the weekend. All the lads give their love."

On July 5, Ali asks again about the dummy run: "Ask Paps where I can send my [other mate] for the rehearsal. What studio?"

Pakistan replied on July 9, saying: "About the gig for your rapper mate, I will let you know when you call."

On July 13, in a further e-mail Pakistan told Ali: "Your friend can go to his rapping contest anywhere. Make sure he goes on the bus service that's most popular over there."

Around the same time, an e-mail from Sarwar to his contact in Pakistan, said: "I've found 15 suppliers who can get me nice Calvin Klein designer aftershave. I spoke to Imran. He says he has a... bloke can sort them out for us."

On July 20 he wrote, in what is seen as a reference to quantities and strengths of hydrogen peroxide: "I'll let you know about the aftershave bottles soon. You first said we only needed to get a box of 30. Will I need to sell this at £80, or shall I leave them for the time being?"

Pakistan replied: "I need at least 40. I've got orders for this already. I don't want to mess around as I don't want to lose these customers. You need to get a move on. Let me know when you can get it for me."

Ten days before the arrests, Pakistan is asking Ali about his "skin problem" and whether his friend has "gone to his rap concert yet?" A message to Sarwar instructs him: "You need to buy as much aftershave as possible."

Ali responded: "All I have to do is sort out opening timetable and bookings. That should take a couple of days."

The man in Pakistan, using the name "Paps", reassures Ali, telling him not to worry, to reduce contact with others in the cell whose roles were in planning and logistics.

He writes: "Don't worry too much. It's normal in summer time when it gets hot. You shouldn't see Camera Guy now really. Nabs [Sarwar] and his friend can take care of things with him. I don't want him to get your fungus skin infection and that goes for your business mate too."

He then says: "Do your opening timetable. Give your girlies a big up from me."

These e-mails, with their references to dummy-runs and apparent suggestions of moving towards the final stages of planning, are thought to have spooked the US authorities and prompted them to demand the arrest of the contact in Pakistan.

His detention then sparked the wave of arrests in Britain on August 9, as police and MI5 moved to close down the cell before Ali and his associates discovered what had happened in Pakistan.

He later escaped from police custody but was reported killed in November last year. His family disputes the reports of his death but intelligence sources say it is based on high-quality images of the drone attack and its aftermath.

Times : Why I suspect jittery Americans nearly ruined efforts to foil plot

Why I suspect jittery Americans nearly ruined efforts to foil plot

Andy Hayman | September 8, 2009

For several months in 2006 the key suspects in the airline plot — some of whom were convicted yesterday — were under intensive surveillance.

We logged every item they bought, we sifted every piece of rubbish they threw away (at their homes or in litterbins). We filmed and listened to them; we broke into their homes and cars to plant bugs and searched their luggage when they passed through airports.

We had been concerned about this group since early 2006. They were linked to a suspicious bookshop in Forest Gate, East London, and knew one of the July 21 bombers. The inquiry was labelled Operation Overt.

When a key figure, Abdulla Ahmed Ali, returned from Pakistan in June 2006, we searched his luggage and resealed it without him noticing. Inside was a soft drink powder, Tang, and a large number of batteries; they were bombmaking components and their discovery led to a step change in the operation. Another man, Assad Sarwar, seemed to be taking on the role of quartermaster — buying clamps, drills, syringes, glue and latex gloves. We watched him dispose of empty hydrogen peroxide containers; the substance could be used to dye hair or, as in July 2005, as an essential explosives component.

We were on their tail when Ali bought a flat in Walthamstow for £138,000 cash and we “burgled” the property to wire it up for covert sound and cameras. We watched as they experimented with turning soft-drinks containers into bottle bombs, listened as they recorded martyrdom videos and heard them discuss “18 or 19”. Were they talking about numbers of targets, bombs or bombers?

We were convinced that they were planning an attack, but wanted to let the operation run so we could gather enough evidence to put before the courts and secure convictions. Even when Commander John McDowall told me that the plan was “bigger than 9/11” we felt confident that we were on top of it. MI5 agreed with us. The stakes were high and, with American cities the targets, we had to keep Washington fully briefed.

At the very highest level, the Americans wanted to be reassured that this was not going to slip through our hands. I was briefing the Home Secretary, who was briefing Tony Blair, who was briefing George Bush. So certain were we that we were in control and had the suspects under observation 24/7 that my top team and I agreed that we could each, one at a time, take a holiday.

In August 2006, after a hectic period with little respite as we pursued one terrorism investigation after another, I packed my bags and left for La Manga on a family break.

Into the suitcase, with the suntan cream and flip-flops, went a chunky secure satellite phone. I had arranged to telephone London every day at 8pm to be updated. But four days into the holiday, on August 9, we were sitting down to dinner, the cork just out of the wine bottle, when that phone rang.

The authorities in Pakistan had arrested a man called Rashid Rauf and the consequences of that were serious for our operation. Rauf, who hailed from Birmingham, was believed to be strongly linked to the senior command of al-Qaeda in Pakistan and as such was suspected as a key reference point for directing terror plots around the world. While not provable, he was also thought to be a contact for those attending terrorism training in the tribal areas. We suspected that the terrorism cell were known and linked to him.

If they got wind of his arrest it could scare the group and maybe prompt them into accelerating their planned attack — we had to get to the men in the British cell before they found out that Rauf was in custody.

We believed the Americans had demanded the arrest and we were angry we had not been informed. We were being forced to take action, to arrest a number of suspects, which normally would have required days of planning and briefing. I needed to get back to London and had a very small window in which I could travel before things went crazy at the airports. Once news of the plot was out, the airline authorities would have to introduce strict security measures to plug the loopholes that might have allowed these men to smuggle explosives on to aircraft. Fortunately, in London, the team was much calmer.

From a standing start they located and arrested a number of people we regarded as part of the cell. Two of the ringleaders were picked up as they met to discuss plans and throughout the night and the following morning officers were bursting through doors in East London and High Wycombe.

At times like this the police service is at its best: no fuss — just fast, old-fashioned police work.

But we were concerned to know why Pakistan had jumped the gun.

Fearful for the safety of American lives, the US authorities had been getting edgy, seeking reassurance that this was not going to slip through our hands. We moved from having congenial conversations to eyeball-to-eyeball confrontations.

We thought we had managed to persuade them to hold back so we could develop new opportunities and get more evidence to present to the courts. But I was never convinced that they were content with that position. In the end, I strongly suspect that they lost their nerve and had a hand in triggering the arrest in Pakistan.

The arrest hampered our evidence-gathering and placed us in Britain under intolerable pressure. I landed at Gatwick to be met on the tarmac by Sussex Police Special Branch officers. On a blue-light run into London, I changed from T-shirt and shorts into a suit.

By 5am, I was alongside Peter Clarke, head of Counter Terrorism Command, at Cobra, the Government’s emergency committee, in the secure meeting rooms underneath Whitehall. John Reid, then the Home Secretary, was chairing the meeting and, bizarrely, was wearing sunglasses because of an eye infection. It was also somewhat unnerving — you never quite knew whether or not you were under his inquisitive glare.

The atmosphere was tense. The politicians’ stress levels were rising as they saw television news pictures of irate holidaymakers waiting for delayed and cancelled flights. Back at the Yard, information was pouring in as homes and offices of the accused were being searched and phone records analysed. Specialist lawyers from the Crown Prosecution Service camped alongside investigating officers. As the evidence was being discovered they could assess its value. Each defendant’s name was on a wall chart and when a key element of evidence was established the detail would be recorded against the relevant defendant. We could watch as the case against each suspect mounted and approached the threshold for charging.

The scale of the evidence was vast, which placed huge pressure on the interviewing teams. Their job was to interrogate each defendant based on the evidence collected. We fought long hours of fatigue with endless trips to fast-food joints. We were also creeping closer to the detention limit, which had just been raised from 14 to 28 days. But the evidence came, charges followed and the process of presenting our findings to the courts had begun.

Andy Hayman was Assistant Commissioner Specialist Operations in the Metropolitan Police in 2006

Guardian : Airline bomb plotters case threatened by US fears

Airline bomb plotters case threatened by US fears

Connections established with those behind failed attacks and senior figures in Osama bin Laden's network in Pakistan

Vikram Dodd and Lee Glendinning | September 8, 2009

Several months of high-level surveillance on the key suspects in the airline bomb plot was almost foiled by the nervousness of US authorities who "lost their nerve", according to Scotland Yard's then head of counter-terrorism operations.

Andy Hayman, who was assistant commissioner specialist operations in the Metropolitan police in 2006, today outlined how the suspects were being filmed, their purchases and rubbish monitored and cars bugged in the lead-up to their arrests in August 2006, but said the police operation in the UK came close to being undermined by anxiousness from the US that the plotters be arrested as soon as possible.

"At the very highest level, the Americans wanted to be reassured that this was not going to slip through our hands. I was briefing the home secretary, who was briefing Tony Blair, who was briefing George Bush..." he wrote in the Times today.

"Fearful for the safety of American lives, the US authorities had been getting edgy … We moved from having congenial conversations to eyeball-to-eyeball confrontations," Hayman wrote. "We thought they had managed to persuade them to hold back so we could develop new opportunities and get more evidence to present to the courts. But I was never convinced they were content with that position. In the end, I strongly suspect that they lost their nerve and had a hand in triggering the arrest in Pakistan."

The men were arrested in August 2006, just two days before it was feared they would stage a dry run of the plot – but the US had wanted the plotters arrested days earlier, fearing that British police would miss the start of the attack.

The former US homeland security chief, Michael Chertoff, told the Guardian the US administration was on such a state of heightened alert about the plot that it turned back a plane in midair two days before the arrests, believing a terror suspect was on board.

Chertoff said of the plot: "This stood out as being of a very substantial dimension, advanced, specific and sophisticated and of a scale comparable to 9/11."

Al-Qaida and extremists in Pakistan devised and provided key technical knowledge for the 2006 airline bomb plot, British and US counter-terror officials believe.

Plot leaders Assad Sarwar and Abdulla Ali had made several trips to Pakistan. Sarwar had a telephone with multiple Sim cards and both men used international cards and public telephone boxes to make calls to Pakistan. They seemed to have knowledge of counter-terrorism techniques. "Their operational security was very, very good," a senior police officer said. "A large part of this plan was invented in Pakistan."

Woolwich crown court was told that Ali, 28, and Sarwar, 29, exchanged coded emails with terrorist masterminds in Pakistan after they visited the country in 2006. UK counter-terrorism officials believe one of those referred to by the codename "Paps" or "Papa" in the correspondence is Rashid Rauf, suspected of masterminding the plot. The emails also refer to his lieutenant sent to Britain in August 2006 to oversee the final stages of an al-Qaida plot aimed at causing mass murder and stunning the west.

Prosecutor Peter Wright QC told the court: "The tenor of the emails from Ali or Sarwar to Pakistan is of a progress report. The tenor of the emails from Pakistan is of instruction, command, direction to the men on the ground.

"They demonstrate also that Ali and Sarwar had entirely different but equally important roles to perform, and they were entirely under the control and direction of Pakistan."

The two men began to lay the groundwork for the airline plot when they returned to the UK from trips to Pakistan in December 2005.

In June 2006 Sarwar flew again to Pakistan, where he was taught how to refine hydrogen peroxide to the high concentration required to produce a bomb, and how to make the chemical detonator HMTD.

Giving evidence to the jury in his own defence, Sarwar told them of a method he had learned to calculate the strength of hydrogen peroxide. He told jurors that his tutor in Pakistan, a Kashmiri freedom fighter called Jameel Shah, had given him advice on handling HMTD and how to boil down the volatile hydrogen peroxide without injuring himself.

"You tend to place it in a large metal pot over a camping stove, keeping it at a low temperature," he said. "You need to monitor it constantly because if it gets too hot, it could catch fire.

"That's how they do it in Pakistan, in the outdoors."

Both Sarwar and Ali were in Pakistan for what police believe was terrorist training at the same time as members of the cell that attacked London on 7 July 2005. Ali was still Pakistan both on the day of attacks on the capital's transport system that killed 52 innocent people and at the time of the attempted attacks of 21 July.

After the two men were arrested along with six fellow plotters, investigators found links to a past terror plot. Ali had been in regular phone contact with one of the gang who tried to bomb London on 21 July 2005. There were several calls between telephones registered to Ali and to Mukhtar Ibrahim in the months running up to the failed suicide bombings. Ibrahim is serving a life sentence for the attempted attack.

UK counter-terrorism officials believe that a trip by Ibrahim to Pakistan in December 2004 for terrorist training was allegedly organised by a man known only as "Gabs" in the airline plot trial. He knew several of the plotters involved in the conspiracy to use bombs disguised as soft drinks to blow up seven transatlantic aircraft, the jury heard.

A naturalised British citizen born in Syria, "Gabs" lives in east London. He was tried and acquitted of a terrorist offence in 2004 but is accused by US authorities of a string of terrorism-related offences. They say he provided "material and logistical support to al-Qaida and other terrorist organisations" and facilitated "travel for recruits seeking to meet with al-Qaida leaders and take part in terrorist training".

They also accuse him of having been "in regular contact with UK-based Islamist extremists, involved in the radicalising of individuals in the UK through the distribution of extremist media" and of having trained at jihadi camps run by a militant Kashmiri group.

Tracked to his last known address, a woman who answered the door denied all knowledge of the man. The Guardian is not naming him for legal reasons.

A counter-terrorism source described Gabs as a shadowy figure and confirmed that he had been one of the factors that had led investigators to the terrorist cell behind the airline plot.

A senior British police source did not rule out the possibility that other people had been involved, but said they believed they had arrested the main conspirators. "We ripped the heart out of this one," he said.

The links between the airline plotters and previous terrorist conspiracies, plus the sophistication of the devices and plotting, led western counter-terrorism officials to believe al-Qaida was involved.

It was the arrest of Rashid Rauf in Pakistan under suspicion of being part of the conspiracy that led UK police to speed up their plans to arrest the other suspects. They feared that if the UK cell learned of Rauf's arrest they would believe their capture was imminent and either lash out or try to go to ground.

Rauf later escaped from Pakistani custody. He is thought to have been killed by a US drone strike in November 2008, but some believe he is still alive.

US intelligence believes the cell was directed by al-Qaida leaders, possibly Abu Obaidah al-Masri, who died of natural causes this year in Pakistan.

Seven of the accused refused to answer questions from detectives after their arrest. Their first accounts came only at the trial when they gave evidence in their own defence. Ali said he had worked in refugee camps on border between Pakistan and Afghanistan after the US invasion, and he decided that British and American foreign policy were the root causes of the suffering he witnessed both personally and through the media.

He would meet Sarwar, with whom he discussed politics and how to try to change things, and together they came to the idea of setting off explosions in Britain. Ali said he and Sarwar discussed a list of targets including Canary Wharf, Liverpool Street station and the Bank of England, "anywhere that is iconic and sensational". UK officials say the planning for any attack on these targets was less advanced than the airline plot.

Ali said that at one point in 2006 he was struggling to find a suitable device when Sarwar said he knew "someone in Pakistan who might be able to help us". Ali said this man had fought in Kashmir against Indian forces based there.

In his suicide video Ali says that warnings from the al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden to the west to leave Muslims alone had been ignored. The themes in his rhetoric chimed with those from other al-Qaida videos, notably Bin Laden's "foreign lands" speech, and also the video suicide note left by the 7 July bomber Mohammed Siddique Khan.

The strong connections between the convicted plotters and figures in Pakistan are part of the reason the British government has applied increasing public and private pressure on Pakistan to do more to tackle terrorism. Since the plot was disrupted in summer 2006, western intelligence officials both in the UK and the US have grown more fearful that further attacks on the west will be planned on Pakistani soil and carried out by people of Pakistani heritage. Pakistani officials reject these suggestions and say their country is being used as a scapegoat.

MSNBC : Inside the terror plot that 'rivaled 9/11' [updated]

Inside the terror plot that 'rivaled 9/11'

What really happened in the case that led airlines to ban liquids and gels

By Richard Greenberg, Paul Cruickshank, and Chris Hansen | Dateline NBC | September 14, 2009

This is an update to a report originally published Sept. 15, 2008.

In one of the most significant terrorism cases since 9/11, a British court Monday sentenced three British citizens to life in prison for conspiring to blow up transatlantic airliners in a plot that was thwarted in August 2006. The terrorist plot, which disrupted international air travel at the time, led authorities in 2006 to impose restrictions on liquids and gels on airplanes. Those restrictions remain in place today.

The three men, who were convicted by a British jury one week ago, were considered ringleaders of the conspiracy, according to prosecutors. They were among twelve charged in the case. To date, nine have stood trial.

In addition to the three convicted, the jury last Monday found four other defendants not guilty of the airliner conspiracy. One defendant was acquitted. The verdicts came at the end of a six-month retrial ordered by British authorities after a jury delivered mixed verdicts in an initial trial held in 2008.

In spite of the four acquittals in the retrial, British authorities expressed relief and satisfaction that the those they described as ringleaders were found guilty. “I cannot thank enough those involved for their professionalism and dedication in thwarting this attack and saving thousands of lives,” said U.K. Home Secretary Alan Johnson in statement. Johnson described it as the largest counterterrorism operation ever in the U.K.; the U.K. Press Association estimated the cost of the investigation and two trials at around $200 million.

The case highlighted the continuing threat posed by British-born radicals and the potential for Britain to serve as a staging ground for attacks against the United States.

Authorities said the men, arrested in August 2006, planned to smuggle liquid explosives disguised as sports drinks aboard a half-dozen or more flights headed from London’s Heathrow Airport to cities in the United States and Canada. Counterterrorism investigators say that such an attack could have killed well over 1,500 on board the planes, and many more if detonated over densely populated urban areas.

In an interview last year, then-Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff told Dateline NBC that, if successful, the alleged plot "would have rivaled 9/11 in terms of the number of deaths and in terms of the impact on the international economy."

A review of the nearly 5,000 pages of trial transcripts and interviews with key British, American and Pakistani officials involved in the investigation offer insights into the current state of al-Qaida and the evolution of its operations, adding to the body of evidence that recruits from the West are being trained and directed by al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan.

The name al-Qaida was not spoken frequently in court, but it loomed over the proceedings.

Prosecutors did not produce any evidence explicitly linking the plot to al-Qaida, but privately, British officials have suggested that al Qaida’s number three at the time, Abu Ubaidah al Masri, authorized the alleged airline plot. Al Masri reportedly died in 2007 of natural causes.

U.S. officials: Plotters trained by al-Qaida in Pakistan

A senior Bush administration official and two U.S. intelligence officials told Dateline that intelligence shows that some of the men convicted in this case – though the officials did not identify them by name – traveled to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, widely believed to be home to al-Qaida’s leaders, where they received explosives training “from al-Qaida specialists.”

Testifying before a Senate committee in 2007, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, described the plotters as “an al-Qaida cell, directed by al-Qaida leadership in Pakistan.”

While some have questioned whether an attack really was imminent or even viable, law enforcement and intelligence sources on both sides of the Atlantic insist that it was only weeks away. “This was no dress rehearsal,” says Andy Hayman, at the time Scotland Yard’s Assistant Commissioner Specialist Operations, whose command included counterterrorism. If the plotters had not been stopped, Hayman, now an NBC News analyst, added, “I believe they would have been successful.”

The three convicted of conspiracy to murder by blowing up aircraft en route to North America were Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 28, Assad Sarwar, 29, and Tanvir Hussain, 28. The verdict was not unanimous, but the judge accepted a majority verdict, according to which 11 of the 12 jurors were in agreement. At their first trial last year, all three were convicted of a general charge of conspiracy to murder, but the jury could not reach a verdict on the specific charge that their intended targets were airplanes in mid-flight. The three men Monday received sentences that were among the longest handed out by a British court in a terrorism case. Ali received a minimum 40 year prison term, Sarwar a minimum 36 year term and Hussain a minimum 32 years.

This time, the jury was persuaded by the evidence, said Sue Hemming, Head of the Crown Prosecution Service Counter Terrorism Division. “This was a calculated and sophisticated plot to create a terrorist event of global proportions and the jury concluded that Ali, Sarwar and Hussain knew what the target was.”

Those found not guilty last Monday of conspiring to bring down airliners were: Ibrahim Savant, 28, Arafat Waheed Khan, 28, and Waheed Zaman, 25. The jury was deadlocked on a general murder conspiracy charge against the three, and they could face a third trial. Another defendant in the latest trial, Abdul Waheed (a.k.a Don Stewart-Whyte), 23, who was not a defendant in the first trial, was cleared of all murder conspiracy charges. An eighth defendant, Umar Islam, 31, was found guilty of the general murder conspiracy; the jury was hung on the second conspiracy charge involving the specific airline plot. Islam this Monday was sentenced to a minimum 22 years in prison.

In the first trial last year, one individual, Mohammed Gulzar, 29, accused by authorities of flying into the U.K. from South Africa in mid-July 2006 to "superintend" the final stages of the plot, was also acquitted of all charges.

Prosecutors characterized Ali and Sarwar as lead figures in the conspiracy and the others as footsoldiers in the plot.

Authorities described Ali, who lived in the east London community of Walthamstow and had a college degree in computer engineering, as the cell leader in Britain and the one responsible for developing the mechanics of the bomb design. Sarwar was essentially the bomb chemist; he purchased and stored the chemicals to make the liquid explosive and detonator.

Ali, Sarwar, and Gulzar all had significant links to Pakistan. Between 2002 and 2006, both Ali and Sarwar made repeated trips there. In early 2003, according to court testimony, both traveled to a refugee camp in Chaman, Pakistan near the Afghan border, on behalf of a London-based Islamic medical charity. Ali testified that the suffering he saw in the refugee camps made him increasingly angry with U.S. and British foreign policy, anger he claimed intensified after the outbreak of the Iraq war that spring.

According to U.S., U.K., and Pakistani law enforcement sources, Ali and Sarwar’s key contact in Pakistan was Rashid Rauf, a U.K. national who allegedly fled to Pakistan in 2002 after he became a suspect in the murder of his own uncle in Birmingham, England. Rauf is believed by counterterrorism investigators to have played a critical role in the alleged airline plot, coordinating between the plotters in the U.K. and the al-Qaida leadership in Pakistan.

On the stand, Ali and Sarwar acknowledged being in frequent communication with men in Pakistan and testified that they were in touch with a Kashmiri militant who went alternately by the names Yusuf and Jamil Shah. Sarwar told the court that he received explosives training from the man in Pakistan in early summer 2006. Several British investigators told Dateline they believe that the man was almost certainly Rashid Rauf, the suspected Al Qaida point man in the terrorist conspiracy, who used the names as aliases.

Ali, who was in Pakistan during that same period, was already on the radar screen of British intelligence, according to British counterterrorism sources, who told Dateline that Ali’s name had surfaced in an intelligence analysis mapping out the associates of suspected terrorists. The British security service MI5 brought in Scotland Yard, the sources say, and the two agencies coordinated closely from that point on. The sources say that the first clues that Ali might be planning an attack on commercial aviation came to their attention in June 2006, though a more complete picture only emerged several weeks later, in mid-July.

British counterterrorism investigators suggest that the alleged airline plotters may have had links to individuals involved in other plots. If nothing else, they point to an intriguing set of coincidences. For instance, Mohammed Hamid, a radical preacher who called himself Osama bin London, worked near the east London-based charity where Ali and Sarwar, the alleged airline plot leaders, volunteered; and all three traveled to the same refugee camp in Pakistan. In 2008, Hamid was convicted of arranging terrorist training in the British countryside for several of those plotting to bomb the London transport system on July 21, 2005.

Furthermore, British court records reveal an intriguing coincidence in the timing of trips to Pakistan made by leaders of four major terrorist plots in Britain: a 2004 fertilizer bomb plot, the July 7 and July 21, 2005 London transit attacks, and the alleged airline plot. Some counterterrorism investigators wonder if these plots may have been part of a campaign by al-Qaida to hit Britain with a rolling sequence of attacks.

Andy Hayman refused to comment directly on that possibility. “Until you absolutely know for sure through evidence, intelligence what happened when they went to Pakistan, you could never reliably answer that question. “But,” added Hayman, “on the balance of probability, do you not find it rather strange that the country that they visited, and whatever went on there precipitated them coming back to the U.K. and committing acts of terrorism? I leave that open for others to draw their own conclusions.”

Piecing together a timeline

Testimony established that Ali, the alleged airline plot ringleader, was in Pakistan in the fall of 2004 and traveled back to Britain in early 2005. During that same period, additional court records show, key figures in the July 7 and July 21, 2005 bombings were also in Pakistan, including July 7 suicide bombers Mohammed Siddique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, and July 21 ringleader Muktar Said Ibrahim, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Ali may have been in communication with Said Ibrahim in the spring of 2005, according to British officials, who explain that a cell phone police recovered from Ali contained a number used by Said Ibrahim.

That information was not presented at either trial; nor were the juries told that Mohammed Gulzar, the alleged plot supervisor who was acquitted, was a close friend of Rashid Rauf.

According to investigators, Rauf and Gulzar grew up together in Birmingham and then both attended Portsmouth University at the same time on Britain’s south coast. Law enforcement officials say that when Rauf left the UK following the murder of his uncle in 2002, Gulzar also fled for Pakistan, after British police also sought him for questioning. When he returned to the UK in July 2006, authorities say he used a fraudulent South African passport.

On the witness stand, Gulzar acknowledged that, following his return, he was in frequent contact with an individual in Pakistan. British investigators told Dateline they believed that man to almost certainly be Rauf.

After arriving in the U.K., Gulzar met several times with Mohammed al Ghabra, 28, a British citizen, who has been designated an al-Qaida facilitator by the U.S. government. Al Ghabra (seen in the picture below) and Gulzar’s meetings took place in South Africa and London in the spring and summer of 2006.

In announcing al Ghabra’s designation on December 19, 2006, the U.S. Treasury Department stated: “Al Ghabra has organized travel to Pakistan for individuals seeking to meet with senior al Qaida individuals and to undertake Jihad training.” It also stated that al Ghabra “maintains contact with… senior al Qaida officials in Pakistan.”

Al Ghabra, who has been living openly in east London, has denied the allegations. In 2004, according to the Times of London, al Ghabra was acquitted on unrelated charges of fraud and “possession of a document or record that could be useful to terrorism.”

According to a British counterterrorism source, after his release, Gulzar was made subject of a “control order,”, a legal mechanism severely restricting his movements and communication.

Ali, the alleged airline plot ringleader, made four trips to Pakistan between 2003 and 2006, according to trial testimony. Something about a trip he made there in the spring of 2006 – officials will not disclose exactly what – heightened their suspicion. According to the Daily Telegraph, when Ali arrived in London on June 24, 2006, British agents “were waiting at Heathrow to secretly open his baggage in a back room.” Two days later, according to new evidence introduced at the retrial, Ali sent an email to Pakistan: “Hi, yeah I’m cool. Got back from holiday. Everything went fine. Didn't get any problems at all. I'm just getting settled, take a few days, then I’ll start trading.”

At the same time, the probe became “red hot,” former Assistant Police Commissioner Hayman said. “This was, at that time, the only show in town.” Investigators began round-the-clock surveillance. Counterterrorism investigators say that following Ali led them to the others he was recruiting, which led to more surveillance.

Most of the dozen men eventually charged in relation to the plot were either school friends of Ali or people he got to know at the London and Pakistan offices of the medical charity. Courtroom testimony suggested that Ali’s charismatic appeal helped him persuade some of them to sign up for the operation.

British counterterrorism investigators say that it eventually became the biggest operation of its kind. At its peak, they say the investigation involved as many as a thousand intelligence and police officers, including surveillance teams that kept tabs on Ali, Sarwar, and the other suspected cell members. At trial, prosecutors introduced evidence of meetings in restaurants, parks, over games of tennis, and even by a Muslim cemetery. Security camera footage showed the operatives on a veritable shopping spree for what authorities alleged were parts to make the explosives.

While the plotters had not yet assembled a complete device, prosecutors stated that they had acquired all the constituent parts for the three key components: the liquid explosive, the detonator, and the trigger – enough to produce at least 20 bombs.

Their purchases included more than 40 liters of hydrogen peroxide, the main ingredient for the liquid explosive, which they bought from health food and hydroponics suppliers in Britain. Ali had brought some of the materials back from Pakistan, including packets of the sugar-based powdered drink Tang and AA batteries. Authorities alleged that the Tang would function as fuel for the hydrogen peroxide-based explosive; the AA batteries would conceal the chemical compound hexamethylene triperoxide diamine (HMTD) for the detonator. Sarwar purchased the key chemicals for that compound at local pharmacies.

Their bomb design, which has been widely reported, had striking similarities to explosives used in previous terrorist plots, authorities say. Hydrogen peroxide was the main ingredient in the explosives used in both the July 7 and July 21 plots, while HMTD was also used as the detonator in the July 7 attack, which killed 52 people in addition to the four suicide bombers.

In late July 2006, Ali set up shop in an east London apartment his brother had just purchased as an investment. Ali testified that he told his brother he would help fix it up for resale. According to further court testimony, Ali and one of his associates went to work experimenting with the bomb components. They drilled holes in the sports drink bottles to drain them; the plan was to refill them with the explosive mixture and reseal the bottles with superglue. Ali also figured out how to remove the AA battery contents in order to insert the HMTD. Beyond that, they were working on the trigger, for which they planned to use a disposable camera wired to the detonator.

Every move being watched

The men involved in the plot were unaware that by early August, the British secret service MI5 had broken into the apartment and installed video and audio probes to record their every move. On Aug. 3, 2006, investigators watched as two of the plotters made an apparent breakthrough in their bomb design. “That’s the boom,” one said, followed later by this phrase, “We’ve got our virgins.” In court, prosecutors said the comment referred to the rewards the men hoped to receive in the afterlife for carrying out their impending suicide mission.

During the same session, the men appeared to count a total of eighteen recruits for the operation. “Phew, think of it, yeah” one of them said when they counted up to eighteen, according to court testimony. The defense argued that background noise and the type of language used in the conversation made it difficult to decipher what was being said with certainty.

John Reid, who oversaw the investigation as U.K. Home Secretary in 2006, says he had no doubt that the bomb could have worked. “They had the components. And they had them cunningly, very sophisticated, but very simply made as everyday commodities that you might take onto a plane with you.”

Dateline, in conjunction with the British broadcaster ITN, commissioned a demonstration by an explosives expert. It showed that a device similar to the one described in the court case – a half-liter hydrogen peroxide explosive with an HMTD detonator – could blow a hole in the side of an aircraft fuselage.

U.S. and British officials agree that the potential threat of the alleged airline plot drove them to new levels of transatlantic cooperation. According to the senior Bush administration official, it also prompted “a new paradigm of counterterrorism intelligence sharing” among U.S. agencies, including CIA, NSA, FBI, DHS, and TSA, all of which played significant roles. The former official declined to offer specifics, but made it clear that the CIA and NSA, for instance, gathered intelligence for the investigation “in real time” using “the intelligence tools available.”

According to several counterterrorism sources, the CIA provided critical help in identifying and tracking people involved in Pakistan. “The Brits gave us a number or a name,” said one U.S. counterterrorism source speaking on condition of anonymity, “and we came back and said, ‘Here are these email addresses, these phone numbers, and more names.’”

An email introduced at the retrial is another indication of how closely the plot was being supervised from Pakistan. On Aug. 3, 2006, Ali wrote to Rashid Rauf, according to the Telegraph: “By the way, I've set up my mobile shop now. Now I only need to sort out an opening time.” Rauf replied from Pakistan: “Do your opening timetable. Give your girlies a big up from me.”

On Aug. 6, authorities grew increasingly concerned when they monitored Ali, the cell leader, looking up timetables for transatlantic flights departing between August and October 2006. Adding to their worry: several of the plotters were seeking new British passports. “They were trying to create a kind of clean identity for themselves,” said Scotland Yard counterterrorism chief John McDowall in an interview with Dateline. “Clearly the absence or otherwise of passport stamps to places like Pakistan they felt would be an advantage.”

The passports had not been issued, but expedited applications were pending. Several of the men also had applied for loans they allegedly never intended to repay, a tactic used by previous terrorist cells.

The next day, Aug. 7, according to officials at the Department of Homeland Security, there was a tense moment when they feared an attack might be underway. Authorities discovered that a person on board an American Airlines flight from Heathrow to Boston was on the No Fly list. Former homeland security secretary Chertoff said, “The first concern that we had was, have we either missed something, or has someone decided on their own they are going to accelerate an element of the plot and we therefore, we are perhaps a little bit late?” The airliner was sent back mid-flight to London; it turned out to be a false alarm.

On Aug. 8, 2006, at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, President Bush was briefed on the case. Chertoff would not disclose the President’s specific comments, but told Dateline, “Generally, the president's concerns were, first and foremost, ‘Let's make sure no lives get lost.’”

Counterterrorism sources said that, by that time, U.S. intelligence services were tracking the movements of Rashid Rauf, the suspected al-Qaida point man in Pakistan, and officials saw indications that Rauf might be heading into the tribal areas of Pakistan, where they feared he could evade capture.

According to counterterrorism investigators, the situation created some friction. U.S. officials did not want to risk losing Rauf and pressed the Pakistani authorities to arrest him immediately. British officials preferred to wait a few more days to gather more intelligence and evidence. The Pakistanis found themselves in the middle, said a former senior Pakistani official with knowledge of the investigation, who described the pressure from the U.S. as “enormous.”

On Aug. 9, the case reached critical mass: bugs planted in the terrorist safe house picked up audio of one of the men recording a suicide video, one of six such videos investigators eventually recovered. The bug also picked up one of the plotters asking Ali, the cell’s ringleader “What’s the time frame?... How long we got to go?” Ali’s reply: “A couple of weeks.”

That evening, British police learned that Pakistani authorities had arrested Rauf.

British officials feared that if the plotters found out about Rauf’s arrest, it could serve as a “go signal” to trigger an attack. “Given how high the stakes were, you couldn't second guess,” said Andy Hayman. According to investigators, Rashid Rauf had been in touch several times with the UK plotters on the day of his arrest and had been in near constant communication with the UK ringleaders — by phone, email and text — in the weeks before the plot was broken up, an indication of his central role in the plot.

Overnight, British police arrested more than two dozen suspects, including the eight whose trial just concluded. Of those, twelve were charged with conspiracy to murder and blow up airplanes. In addition to the nine who have been tried so far, three defendants have yet to stand trial on these charges: Nabeel Hussain, 25, Osman Adam Khatib, 22, and Mohammed Uddin, 38. According to the Crown Prosecution Service, their trial is expected to start in October.

Two other individuals were charged in relation with the plot. Mohammed Usman Saddique, 27 was charged with engaging in conduct in preparation for an act of terrorism with intent to carry out such an act, a charge also made against Nabeel Hussain. And Ali’s wife, Cossar, was charged with failure to disclose information about the plot. Trials for Saddique and Cossar Ali are expected to take place in early 2010. As for the man acquitted in the first trial, Gulzar, counterterrorism sources say that since his acquittal, he has been subject to a control order, a legal provision strictly limiting his movement and communications.

On the witness stand, the defendants claimed that they never intended to kill anyone, only to set off a bomb inside an airline terminal as a publicity stunt, and then release those suicide tapes as propaganda to draw attention to “the plight of Muslims.” They also said they considered other targets in Britain, including the Parliament. But they were hard-pressed to explain several contradictions. For one, they claimed to disavow al-Qaida’s techniques; at the same time as they said they wanted the explosive to bear the hallmarks of al-Qaida, so they would be taken seriously.

Could bin Laden himself have signed off on the alleged airline plot?

Back in January 2006, bin Laden did warn Americans of major attacks in the works: “And you will witness them, in your own land, as soon as preparations are complete.” It is not clear if he was referring to the alleged airline plot, but counterterrorism experts believe that is a possibility.

“I can't tell you whether operationally it went up to bin Laden,” Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said, “but I think the links to the al-Qaida network are, in my mind, pretty clear.”

For now, British and U.S. authorities are satisfied they put all the main players out of action, at least in Britain.

As for others involved in training and orchestrating the alleged airline plot from Pakistan, a senior Bush administration official told Dateline last year that they had been identified. “They could be in Pakistan still. Some might be in other countries. There are efforts underway to capture them.”

As far as has been made public, the only overseas operative apprehended was Rashid Rauf.

In an interview with Dateline last year, Pakistan’s former interior minister Aftab Sherpao said about Rauf: “It seems he was the main player in this. And he was-giving direction to the people there in U.K.” As far as has been made public, the only overseas operative apprehended was Rashid Rauf.

Following his arrest in Pakistan in August 2006, Rauf was held in custody until December 2007, when he escaped while en route to a court hearing. His guards apparently allowed him to enter a mosque unaccompanied to pray, but he apparently fled out a back door.

While Rauf was on the run in the summer of 2008, Dateline interviewed a spokesman for his wife’s family in Pakistan. The spokesman, Mohamed Riyaz Jukhtiar, said: “According to his family, they say he's not involved in this. Nor is he involved in this organization.”

In November 2008, Rauf was reported killed in a U.S. “Predator” missile strike in North Waziristan in Pakistan’s tribal areas. According to a former senior Bush administration official who was still in office at the time, the U.S. government was confident that Rauf had been killed. However, counterterrorism sources say neither his body, nor any of his DNA has been recovered from the scene of the strike, and his family reportedly remains unconvinced of his death, contributing to some doubt amongst Western counterterrorism officials that he was really killed.

The guilty verdicts at the retrial in London are seen by British authorities as vindicating their decision to hold a retrial. The initial prosecution, which concluded in September 2008, resulted in guilty verdicts for only three of the defendants – Ali, Tanvir Hussain, and Sarwar - on murder conspiracy charges, with the jury unable to reach a decision on a whether these three and four others – Savant, Khan, Zaman and Islam – specifically conspired to blow up airplanes. In the course of the first trial all seven also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to cause a public nuisance, and three, Ali, Tanvir and Hussain pleaded guilty to the additional charge of conspiracy to cause explosions.

Verdicts in initial trial came as surprise to many

Many counterterrorism officials were surprised by the jury’s indecision at the first trial, given what they believed was one of the strongest terrorism cases to date. Some suggested that the case would have been even stronger if prosecutors had been able to introduce intercept evidence. Currently, wiretaps cannot be introduced in British courts. In February this year, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he supports changing that law. A senior British counterterrorism source, privy to communication intercepts in the investigation told Dateline that they would not have provided much ammunition for the prosecution because of their coded nature.

The mixed verdicts at the initial trial prompted some finger pointing in Britain, with critics accusing the U.S. government of forcing British police to shut down the operation too soon. The critics speculated that given more time, authorities could have obtained more evidence. But at the time both U.S. and British officials insisted that the investigation was a success because it broke up the plot.

The retrial, which finally kicked off in April 2009, saw its share of delays caused by issues with several jurors, including illness, injury of a family member, and, in one instance, a potential conflict of interest. By and large, it was a replay of the original trial, but yielded a result closer to the one authorities had hoped for.

“I think what we're actually seeing is a complex investigation being tested by the jury,” said Andy Hayman, the former Scotland Yard senior official. “I draw the comparison I think with fraud investigations where people have to pour through lots of information, numbers, figures, transactions, journeys abroad. There is a real striking similarity with terrorism. People making phone calls, sending emails text messages travelling abroad you are asking the jury an awful lot to do there.”

Another panel of jurors may now have to go through it all over again. In a statement last week, the Crown Prosecution service announced that it is requesting a third trial for the defendants for whom the current jury reached no verdict. A judge is expected to rule on the request in October.

Richard Greenberg is Supervising Investigative Producer for NBC News, Paul Cruickshank is a Fellow at the NYU Center on Law and Security, and Chris Hansen is Correspondent for Dateline NBC.

NBC News Senior Investigative Producer Robert Windrem contributed to this report.

This report aired on Dateline on Monday, Sept. 15, 2008 at 10 p.m. ET.

© 2009 MSNBC Interactive.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

NYT : Life Terms for Plot to Bomb Trans-Atlantic Flights From London

Life Terms for Plot to Bomb Trans-Atlantic Flights From London

By JOHN F. BURNS | September 14, 2009

LONDON — A High Court judge on Monday imposed minimum prison terms of 32 to 40 years on three men convicted last week, after two trials, of plotting to smuggle liquid explosives onto at least seven trans-Atlantic airliners heading to the United States and Canada from London, with the aim of blowing the aircraft apart in midair.

The judge, Sir Richard Henriques, called the plot “the most grave and wicked conspiracy ever proven within this jurisdiction” and compared it, in its potential for inflicting mass loss of life, to the Sept. 11 attacks. He gave all three men the maximum of life imprisonment but followed standard British practice by specifying the minimum period each man would have to serve before becoming eligible for parole.

The plot’s ringleader in Britain, Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 28, was given a minimum term of 40 years. Assad Sarwar, 29, received a 36-year minimum after he was identified at the trials as the chemical expert and “quartermaster” of the plot, responsible for acquiring materials, including the explosive concentration of hydrogen peroxide that would have been injected into plastic soft-drink bottles intended to serve as bombs.

A third man, Tanvir Hussain, 28, named by prosecutors as Mr. Ali’s right-hand man, was told that he would have to serve at least 32 years.

Judge Henriques, 65, known in the British judiciary for his tough sentencing in an era when the trend has often been toward greater leniency, was unsparing as he passed sentences on the plotters, saying they had amassed enough explosives to make 20 bombs. He aligned himself squarely with the prosecutors, who were faced with defense arguments that the plotters had intended only to set off minor explosions at a terminal at London’s Heathrow Airport to attract attention to Muslim grievances over the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and not to kill people or attack airliners.

“The intention was to perpetrate a terrorist outrage that would stand alongside the events of Sept. 11, 2001, in history,” the judge said. “I’m satisfied that the plot would have succeeded but for the intervention of the police and the security service.” He added, “Had this conspiracy not been interrupted, a massive loss of life would almost certainly have resulted — and if the detonation was over land, the number of victims would have been even greater still.”

As the judge passed sentence at Woolwich Crown Court in south London on Mr. Ali, the plot leader, he glanced down at a small book he was holding but was otherwise expressionless, the BBC reported. The BBC reporter said that Mr. Sarwar and Mr. Hussain were similarly undemonstrative. The reporter did not identify the book held by Mr. Ali.

The sentences, among the harshest ever imposed in Britain in a murder plot in which nobody was killed, seemed likely to ease the sometimes severe strains that had developed between the United States and Britain over the case. The friction was compounded when the five other defendants in the trial were acquitted of plotting to bomb airliners; one of the five, Umar Islam, 31, was convicted on the lesser charge of conspiracy to commit murder.

Another of the five, Donald Stewart-Whyte, 23, was acquitted on both charges, but the jury did not reach a verdict on the murder conspiracy charge against the remaining three, and they will learn after a hearing on Oct. 5 whether they will face a third trial on the charge.

Global interest in the case, which ran for 17 months over the course of the two trials, has been high, partly because discovery of the plot in August 2006 led to worldwide, time-consuming restrictions at airport security checkpoints that are still in place on the liquids and creams passengers can carry aboard aircraft.

American involvement was pervasive from the start and led to bitter confrontations between officials in London and Washington — not least when the first trial ended last September with the jury convicting Mr. Ali, Mr. Sarwar and Mr. Hussain of conspiracy to commit murder but not reaching a verdict on the main charge of plotting to attack airliners, an outcome some American and British officials attributed to poor handling of the prosecution’s case.

There was also unease over the fact that British courts, unlike their American counterparts, do not allow the use of electronic intercepts as evidence, voiding for court purposes extensive recordings of telephone conversations in which the plotters discussed their plans.

Mr. Islam, the fourth man convicted of a charge last week, received a 22-year term for conspiracy to murder. He had been declared not guilty of the aircraft bombing charge after the jury concluded he was not aware that aircraft were the targets.

All four men sentenced on Monday and the three men facing the possibility of a third trial — Ibrahim Savant, 28; Arafat Waheed Khan, 28; and Waheed Zaman, 25 — are British citizens with family ties in Pakistan, where prosecutors said the plot was masterminded by a British-born man with Pakistani origins, Rashid Rauf.

Mr. Rauf’s involvement was another flashpoint between American and British officials investigating the plot. It was his arrest in Pakistan — at the urging of American officials, as British intelligence officers have said — that set off a chain reaction that prompted the British authorities to round up the plotters on Aug. 9, 2006, at a time when British investigators thought that they lacked enough evidence to guarantee successful prosecutions.

Mr. Rauf’s role in the case threatened at one point to turn into farce. Known as an alcohol-drinking troublemaker at school, he fled Britain in 2002 when his uncle was brutally murdered in Birmingham and he was identified as a suspect. British intelligence officials have said he may have had links to the London transit bombings in 2005 in which 56 people, including four suicide bombers, were killed.

After his arrest in Pakistan in 2006, Britain sought his extradition in the airliner bombing case but he escaped from Pakistani police officers. American officials have said he was eventually killed in a missile strike in northern Pakistan last November.

Sunday Mercury : British Al Qaeda terror mastermind ‘killed’ by US strikes is... STILL ALIVE

British Al Qaeda terror mastermind ‘killed’ by US strikes is... STILL ALIVE

by Ben Goldby | September 13, 2009

TERROR mastermind Rashid Rauf is top of a most wanted hit list in Pakistan despite US claims that they killed the Brummie Al Qaeda chief in an air strike.

A secret list of the top 10 most wanted terror operatives in the lawless tribal regions of North West Pakistan, distributed to field commanders just last week, reveals that Birmingham-born Rauf, Al Qaedas chief recruiter for attacks in the UK and Europe, is still at large.

The Sunday Mercury can also reveal that US intelligence sources are convinced the British terror kingpin, who was the brains behind the liquid bomb plot to kill thousands of transatlantic airline passengers, is alive.

Bakers son Rauf, 28, whose arrest led to the capture of the three men convicted last week of plotting liquid bomb attacks, was reported dead following a missile strike from an un-manned US Predator drone in North Waziristan in November 2008.

However, CIA insiders say video footage taken by the drone of the attack is inconclusive, meaning the hit may have failed to kill Rauf.

The Brummie militants body was never produced, and no DNA samples taken to confirm that he died. His family, who still live in Ward End, Birmingham, have consistently denied that he is dead.

A source close to the US intelligence community says that signals intelligence on Rauf, taken from phone intercepts and eavesdropping devices, has been discovered since his apparent death.

The reports that he is dead came out at a time when the CIA was under pressure to take out high-profile Al Qaeda operatives, our source explained. I have seen some of the information and his lawyers, who also believe he is still alive, have seen reports from Pakistani intelligence.

The problem with the strike on Rauf is that you cannot make out from the cameras that tracked the air strike whether or not he was hit. This took place at night, in a building where it is impossible to tell who is inside.

The timing of this strike is crucial. There was a lot of pressure for these raids to make an impression.

If there was suspicion that someone was killed, they went ahead and released it to the press claiming that person was dead.

I understand that he is alive, and that the Pakistanis are hunting him.

Reports that Rauf may still be alive first emerged in April after a militant detained during a raid in Belgium claimed that he had been trained by the Brummie terror chief.

Shortly after the November strike, Raufs lawyer claimed he was still alive, and that Taliban fighters had been in touch with him.

In April, the former Washwood Heath High School student was implicated as the mastermind behind a failed plot to conduct attacks at a shopping centre in Manchester on Easter Sunday.

Rauf fled to the tribal areas of North Western Pakistan in April 2002, as West Midlands Police tried to question him over the murder of his uncle, Mohammed Saeed, in Alum Rock.

He married a relative of Maulana Masood Azhar, the notorious founder of Kashmiri terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed, in 2003.

Intelligence reports say he took an active role in planning terror spectaculars and was the ringleader of the liquid bomb plot to blow up US-bound jets over the Atlantic Ocean.

In August 2006, as spooks were monitoring the airline bomb plot, Rauf, who was under surveillance by British, Pakistani and American secret services, was arrested on the instruction of the CIA, forcing MI5 to arrest the London-based fanatics who were due to carry out the attack.

Although charges over the transatlantic plot were later dropped against Rauf, the CIA continued to track his activities and he was held by Pakistani police as detectives in Birmingham sought his extradition over his uncles murder.

But in December 2007 Rauf gave guards the slip after a hearing and fled back to the lawless tribal regions of North Western Pakistan.


Telegraph : Rashid Rauf 'training dozens of British terrorist recruits in Pakistan'

Rashid Rauf 'training dozens of British terrorist recruits in Pakistan'

By Saeed Shah in Bahawalpur and Massoud Ansari in Mirpur | September 14, 2009

Pakistani officials have warned that Rashid Rauf, the terrorist linked to the trans-Atlantic airline bomb plot, bas been involved in grooming two dozen British recruits to carry out new attacks.

Pakistan intelligence said that Rauf, who mysteriously escaped from police custody and was then reported killed by a missile fired by US drone last November, used the name Khalid to recruit fellow Britons for training at a camp in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

One official said that Rauf was involved with a group of Arab and Uzbek terrorists in a camp in Matta Cheena village in south Waziristan.

Rauf is said to be a key lieutenant of the group's leader, explosives expert, Abu Nasir. "He is an explosive expert who has effectively devised methods of explosives using easy-to-get ingredients that are virtually undetectable or can raise no alarms for authorities," said the intelligence source.

"We know that they are planning a very serious attack and it is very important for us to arrest all of them.

"If they are able to strike it is going to give a bad name to Pakistan once again for no reason."

Intercepted emails and text messages between Pakistan and the UK had indicated Rauf's involvement under the name Khalid after the authorities decrypted the communications.

British security and intelligence officials have said they believe Rauf may have survived the missile strike and could be planning further attacks.

A US informant called Bryant Neal Vinas, who has admitted planning a suicide attack, was arrested by the Pakistanis last November and said he had met Rauf shortly before the missile strike.

He gave information that has led to the arrest of two cells allegedly planning attacks during a European summit in Brussels and last Easter in Manchester.

Monitoring of the movements of Rauf's relatives has continued despite claims that he has been killed.

Security officials in Pakistan said that Rauf's wife and in-laws, who are based in the city of Bahawalpur, a dusty backwater in the far south of the country's dominant Punjab province, had made no formal request to the government to collect his remains.

"His family [Rauf's in-laws] are under constant surveillance," said one counter-terrorism official. "So we know that no-one went to receive the body, no-one made contact with anyone in Waziristan to ask about the body."

Other Pakistani sources have said they believe Rauf is probably dead and a senior interior ministry official in Islamabad said "he [Rauf] is not on any list of wanted persons".

Rauf was arrested in Bahawalpur in 2006, where he had married into the city's foremost Islamic extremist family, which was then headed by Masood Azhar, founder of the banned Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist group.

Maulana Suhaib, Rauf's brother-in-law and a teacher at the madrassa attended by the 28-year-old, said Rauf had adopted a fresh identity.

"We were told his name was Khalid, a rich businessman and very religious," he said. "We did not know that his actual name was Rashid Rauf. Even on the marriage certificate he identified himself as Khalid."

Another brother-in-law, Suhaib Ahmed said the family had not received confirmation of his death from the government, an important obligation under Islamic tradition. "We have had no contact, and have no source of information, to verify it," he said. "There are many games being played. We can't understand what the game is, and what its objectives are," said Mr Ahmed.

"The body has not come to us. If he was killed, then the government must give us the body.

"My sister [Rauf's wife] demanded, through the media, that we must be given the body, so we can bury him in the proper Islamic way." Mr Ahmed said.

A relative on Rauf's side of the family also dismissed reports of his death.