By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, August 31, 2006
LONDON, Aug. 30 -- A British court on Wednesday gave police one more week to consider charges against five suspects held in an alleged plot to blow up U.S.-bound jetliners.
The five were among 25 people arrested in raids in London, Birmingham and High Wycombe, west of London, this month. Police have alleged that the suspects intended to smuggle liquid explosives onto airliners for detonation in flight. Their arrests caused disruptions to air traffic around the world and resulted in strict new rules for carry-on baggage.
The five suspects whose detention was extended Wednesday are being held under a new British law that allows detention of terrorism suspects for up to 28 days without charge, provided a judge reviews their detention every seven days.
Fifteen other suspects in the case have been charged with terrorism-related offenses and five have been released without charge. Of those charged, 11 face the most serious allegations of conspiracy to murder and four face lesser charges, including withholding information from authorities. The charged suspects are all British Muslims, ages 17 to 35; police have not publicly identified those still being held without charge.
On Wednesday, three men charged on Tuesday made their first appearance at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court in Central London. Mohammed Yasar Gulzar, 25, Mohammed Shamin Uddin, 35, and Nabeel Hussain, 22, were charged with conspiracy to commit murder and preparing to commit terrorism by planning to smuggle explosives aboard planes. A judge ordered all three held until their next court appearance on Sept. 18.
British police contend the suspects were plotting an attack that would result in "unimaginable" loss of life. Searches of more than 69 houses, businesses, vehicles and open spaces have yielded more than 400 computers, 200 cellphones and 8,000 computer-related items such as memory sticks, CDs and DVDs. Police have also said they confiscated several "martyrdom videos," which generally refer to videotaped declarations by people planning suicide attacks.
Nabeel Hussain, who appeared in court Wednesday, has two brothers also charged. Mehran Hussain, 23, and Umain Hussain, 24, are both charged with failing to alert authorities to their brother's alleged intention to commit a terrorist act.
Cossar Ali, 24 , the mother of an 8-month-old child, is charged with failing to report potential terrorist activity by her husband, Ahmed Abdullah Ali, 25, who is charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
The others charged with conspiring to murder are: Tanvir Hussain, 25; Arafat Waheed Khan, 25; Assad Ali Sarwar, 26; Adam Khatib, 19; Ibrahim Savant, 25; Waheed Zaman, 25; and Umar Islam, 28, also known as Brian Young.
Police have also charged a 17-year-old London youth, who has not been identified, with possession of items useful "to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism." Police said those items included "a book on improvised explosives devices, some suicide notes and wills with the identities of persons prepared to commit acts of terrorism and a map of Afghanistan."
British police are also seeking the extradition of a suspect arrested in Pakistan, Rashid Rauf, 25, whom Pakistani officials have called a central figure in the alleged plot. His return is being sought in connection with the April 2002 murder of his uncle. Police declined to say whether the extradition request was also related to the alleged bomb conspiracy.
Rauf is from a Birmingham family that runs a bakery. His younger brother Tayib Rauf, 22, was among those arrested, but British media reported he was released without charge.
British media have also linked the Rauf family to Crescent Relief, an Islamic charity that is under investigation by British officials. The group was reportedly established in 2000 by the Raufs' father, Abdul Rauf, 54. The Charity Commission, Britain's charity watchdog, announced last week it had frozen the charity's bank accounts pending the investigation.