British police arrest 1 person, search Internet cafes, scour woodland in jetliner plot
LONDON – Police detained a new suspect Tuesday in the alleged plot to blow up jetliners over the Atlantic, the first arrest since authorities detained two dozen people last week and threw Britain’s airports into turmoil by imposing tougher security.The announcement came after police said they raided two Internet cafes near the homes of some suspects and a news report said officers may have found a rifle and a pistol in a search of woodlands in the same area.Travelers still faced problems at Britain’s main airports, where flight delays and cancellations exacerbated confusion over shifting rules on hand luggage.London’s Metropolitan police said the latest suspect was detained around noon in the Thames Valley area just west of London. They offered no more details, including the person’s gender or identity.”A suspect has been arrested in connection with the investigation and is in custody in the Thames Valley area,” a spokeswoman said, speaking on condition of anonymity to comply with department rules.The developments came after several days of near silence from British officials, who had announced Thursday that they foiled the planned terror attack by arresting 24 people around the country. Police have released little information since then.Authorities will have to provide at least some details of their evidence when a judge holds a closed-door hearing Wednesday to decide whether to extend detention for 23 suspects. One suspect was released without charge Friday.The two Internet cafes were raided Thursday in central Slough, 25 miles west of London, not far from the High Wycombe neighborhood where several suspects were arrested, Thames Valley police said.Police said they had increased their presence in Slough, and urged people to stay calm.”There is no intelligence to suggest that there is any specific terrorist threat to anyone in this area,” Chief Superintendent Brian Langston said.Langston didn’t say if police found anything in their search. Nargis Janjua, co-owner of the One World Internet Cafe, said officers arrived Thursday afternoon and removed 25 computers from her shop and loaded them into a van.”They told us they were watching for days and weeks before,” she said. She added that she had no idea why police were suspicious of activities in the shop.The British Broadcasting Corp. said a search of woods in High Wycombe turned up several firearms and other items of interest. It was not clear if they were tied to the alleged plot, which authorities say involved plans to smuggle liquid explosives hidden in hand luggage aboard airplanes.Investigations are also under way in Pakistan, where officials are holding 17 people, including British citizen Rashid Rauf, who they said has al-Qaida connections and was a key player in the plot. At least one of Rauf’s brothers was arrested in England.Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said the country might extradite Rauf to Britain, but had not yet been asked. “We do not have any extradition treaty at the moment but yes, because he is a British national, the possibility of his extradition remains there,” ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said.An official in Britain’s Home Office said Rauf could come home within days, and there was likely to be further requests to extradite other British nationals in coming days. At least one other British citizen is being held in Pakistan, officials in Islamabad have said.In London, Conservative Party leader David Cameron accused the Labour Party government of talking tough but doing little to counter extremism and boost counterterrorism efforts.He said Prime Minister Tony Blair failed to follow through on a plan unveiled after last year’s deadly London transit bombings to crack down on radical clerics and help moderate Muslims face down militants in their communities.”We need follow-through when the headlines have moved on,” Cameron said. “But precious little has actually been done.”France’s interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, warned his countrymen that they are under threat, too.”The terrorist threat is high and permanent,” Sarkozy said on France-2 television. “It is absolutely out of the question to let down our guard.”He planned to visit London on Wednesday for talks with counterparts from several nations about the plot uncovered in Britain.President Bush, meanwhile, said the foiled plot is evidence the U.S. could be fighting terrorists for years to come. “America is safer than it has been, yet it is not yet safe,” Bush said.Security rules were eased at London’s airports. Passengers were allowed a single, briefcase-sized bag as a carry on and were also permitted to have mobile phones, laptops and other electronic devices. Cosmetics, gels, toothpaste, liquids and sharp objects remained forbidden.Despite the changes, problems persisted. British Airways canceled a fifth of its flights from London, the same as on Monday. BA cut 52 flights, including four bound for the United States. Budget airline Ryanair canceled eight flights out of Stansted airport.Defense Secretary Des Browne said new security requirements were being developed for airports, but declined to say what the measures might be.The Times newspaper said officials were considering a system of passenger profiling that would select people behaving suspiciously, having an unusual travel pattern or being of certain ethnic or religious backgrounds.Leaders in the Muslim community criticized the latter idea, saying it would further isolate British Muslims.”There is concern that such profiling would perhaps only contribute to further alienating a group whose close co-operation is essential in countering terror,” said Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain.
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