Thursday, August 10, 2006

Heathrow Terror Plot

Woke up this morning to the news that a terror plot to attack planes out of Heathrow had been foiled by police. One expert said that the news he had was that the terrorists had hoped to hijack three planes three times, a successive wave of simultaneous attacks. He also mentioned something about explosives being carried on board in drinks containers- tins or bottles. The plan seems to have been to detonate the explosives mid-flight. Police have arrested 21 people in London and Birmingham- most of them appear to be British born.

In addition to houses being searched, the police have also cordoned off an area of woodland in High Wycombe. Could be a storage point? So far no news, just some aerial shots from the press of a taped off area with very little obvious police activity.

9/11 has been mentioned several times on the BBC but so far the word "Islamic" has not come up. If you didn't fill in the dots yourself you could be excused for thinking that this was an operation by the IRA or some such group.

"Police had spoken to a "good number of community leaders to make them aware that a major operation was under way," he added." Yeah, but what community? Gypsies, Polish, Irish?

The latest news is that flights out of Gatwick airport have also been suspended. A news conference by the Home Office and police is due to begin shortly. I'll blog more throughout the day as more news comes in.

UPDATE- The Home Office press conference was short. He basically said that action was taken after a great deal of unprecedented surveillance of a plot which has a "global dimension". The explosives were manufactured in the UK.

UPDATE- John Reid, Home Secretary, has just held a press conference- the terrorists planned to detonate the explosive mid-flight. Says the loss of life unprecedented. About 2,000-odd dead is my reckoning- a transatlantic flight would hold roughly 200 people, up to ten planes hijacked. Reid refers to a complex on-going operation. 21 arrested. Police reckon they have got the main players but can't be complacent. Could be more out there.

UPDATE- The first mention of Al Qaeda in relation to the plot comes from a US administration official according to CNN. Follows on the heels of an expert on the BBC mentioning the 1995 Al Qaeda plot in Manila.

UPDATE- According to ITN six houses and the wood in High Wycombe are being searched by police. Eye witnesses say one of the homes (closest to the wood) was raided at about 6 a.m. and possibly two suspects were taken away. That's in addition to the houses raided in Birmingham and London.

UPDATE- Homeland Security briefing. It's Chertoff suggeting the Al Qaeda link. Also BBC reporter in New York suggests that the city might have been the target of the attack; the area where the bombs were detonated. FBI and other US agencies have been working with UK authorities.

UPDATE- Official line from the UK is that the arrests took place because of the actions of the terrorists, but they aren't saying this means that the attacks were due to take place today. A questioner at the Homeland Security conference raises the possibility that the attacks may have been timed to coincide with the upcoming 9/11 anniversary. Seems that it was all American airlines targeted so it's not an unreasonable suggestion.

UPDATE- CNN is reporting that the flights which were targeted by the terrorists flew into Washington DC, New York and California. A US anti-terrorist expert said that the men involved were "very close" to boarding their flights. Hours, days? No exact details yet.

UPDATE- The US is sending air marshals to the UK to help with security according to the latest from the BBC- and homes in High Wycombe are being evacuated by police. Could that be the source of the bomb-making?

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